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Singapore Leads World’s First Cross-Border ETR Trade

Singapore is pushing the boundaries of digitalisation for global trade, as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) collaborated with industry players to successfully execute a live shipment from Singapore to Thailand during the first quarter of 2023.

Using Singapore’s TradeTrust framework, this fully paperless, live cross-border trade involved the use of Electronic Transferable Records (ETR), which are functionally equivalent to paper Bills of Lading (BL).

TradeTrust, developed by IMDA, was created to address the challenges of paper-based cross-border trades by leveraging international standards and frameworks and leveraging blockchain-powered technology to enable the digitalisation of transferable documents into ETR.

The IMDA TradeTrust framework harmonises the legal recognition of digital documentation among jurisdictions that have adopted the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Loh Sin Yong, Director of TradeTrust at IMDA, stated that Singapore has endeavoured to reshape, reimagine, and redefine global trade since 2019. The international trade ecosystem profoundly relies on physical paper records and signatures for validation.

The live transaction for the shipment of liquid chemicals from Singapore to Thailand utilises the TradeTrust framework to generate an electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) that complies with UNCITRAL’s MLETR statutory law framework, he added.

Besides, they are thrilled to have demonstrated that the industry could potentially use eBL even in the absence of a contractual legal framework, as they believe this will encourage the widespread adoption of eBL in international trade.

A shipper, a TradeTrust-enabled digital platform provider, and a vessel owner supported by their Protection & Indemnity (P&I) Club participated in the world’s first ETR cross-border trade.

The TradeTrust-enabled digital platform provider has developed a digital solution to support the key logistics documentation processes for cross-border liquid chemical trade involving multiple parties, such as a surveyor and customs broker.

The use of TradeTrust has vested the digitalisation of the transfer of ownership title, issuance and surrender of the ETR as an eBL across multiple systems and stakeholders, in compliance with the UNCITRAL MLETR.

The shipment was made using the following methods:

  1. The liquid chemicals were dispatched from Singapore to Thailand by the shipper.
  2. Using a TradeTrust-enabled digital platform, the vessel issued an eBL.
  3. The use of Marine Vessel Pass has resulted in the creation of Digital Passports for Ships on the eBL, ensuring that the digital identity used in signing was onboarded and verified.
  4. The eBL was then surrendered on the TradeTrust Reference Implementation, demonstrating interoperability across multiple systems without the need for the development of inter-system connectivity protocols such as APIs. It also enabled digital and paper-based processes to communicate with one another.
  5. Their Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club supported the vessel on the basis that the P&I liabilities arising from the use of a TradeTrust-issued eBL are equivalent to the liabilities that could have arisen from the use of a paper-based Bill of Lading.
  6. The eBL was legally supported solely by statutory law, with no contract law or rulebook used. This shipment demonstrated the utility of an eBL issued under the TradeTrust framework in a non-MLETR jurisdiction such as Thailand.

By streamlining and automating existing processes, the implementation of eBLs has increased productivity. The advantages include shorter wait times and lower costs. This pilot builds on industry collaboration to encourage the use of ETRs and facilitate cross-border trade.

ETRs can be issued, transferred, and surrendered in a trusted manner across different digital platforms using the TradeTrust framework, which is required in the context of cross-border trade.


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