Singapore has taken another step forward in being a regional leader in trade digitisation as they continue to develop programmes and initiatives to support this transition. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) recently announced the completion of a live shipment to Thailand through Singapore’s TradeTrust framework, using an Electronic Transferable Record (ETR), the equivalent document to a Bill of Lading.

This trade marks the world’s first ETR cross-border trade, highlighting the industry’s progress towards a more digitalised future.

The trade was conducted using Singapore’s TradeTrust framework, which was pioneered by IMDA. TradeTrust comprises globally-accepted standards that connect governments and businesses to a public blockchain to enable the interoperability of electronic trade documents across digital platforms. It allows end users to digitally endorse, exchange and verify documents and effect title transfer.

TradeTrust can be utilised to digitalise both verifiable documents and transferable documents (such as Bills of Lading) used in cross-border trade. For transferable documents, TradeTrust has been developed to meet the requirements of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (“UNCITRAL MLETR“), which was adopted into Singapore’s legislation in 2021. This serves to harmonise the legal recognition of digital documentation between the jurisdictions which have adopted the UNCITRAL MLETR.

IMDA has provided further details on the ETR cross-border trade it conducted with the participation of industry partners. ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. was the shipper, Bunkerchain was the digital platform provider, and VLK was the vessel owner.

The process took place as follows:

  • ExxonMobil Asia Pacific shipped liquid chemicals from Singapore to Thailand.
  • VLK issued an electronic Bill of Lading (“eBL”) using Bunkerchain, which is a TradeTrust- enabled digital platform.
  • Digital Passports for Ships was created on the eBL, ensuring that the digital identity used in the signing was onboarded and verified.
  •  The eBL was surrendered on the TradeTrust Reference Implementation, demonstrating interoperability across different systems, and interoperability between digital and paper-based processes.
  •  VLK was supported by their Protection and Indemnity Club, on the basis that liabilities arising from the use of the eBL are equivalent to the liabilities under the use of a paper-based Bill of Lading.
  • The eBL was legally supported solely by statutory law without the use of any contract law or rulebook, demonstrating that an eBL issued using the TradeTrust framework can be used in a non-UNCITRAL MLETR jurisdiction, such as Thailand.