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Swift trials electronic bill of lading interoperability model

Swift has partnered with BNY Mellon and Deutsche Bank to test an API-based interoperability model for electronic Bills of Lading (eBL) that it says could help digitise global trade.

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Swift trials electronic bill of lading interoperability model

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In 2022, only 2.1% of bills and lading and waybills in the container trade were electronic, according to the FIT Alliance. McKinsey predicts that adopting eBL could save the industry $6.5 billion a year and enable $40 billion in global trade by 2030.

However, a lack of technical interoperability between existing eBL platforms presents a significant obstacle to wholesale adoption, says Swift.

The nine eBL providers authorised by the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs each have their own rules and customer bases, meaning that customers of one eBL system can’t take part in transactions handled by another eBL system. Instead, financial institutions, corporates, and others involved in a given trade transaction, need to connect to multiple systems - an approach which is both inefficient and costly.

To tackle this, last year Swift began working with platform providers to develop an API-based eBL interoperability model. Under this approach, firms could leverage a single connection to Swift in order to interact with trade transactions carried out using multiple different eBL platforms.

Working with four eBL platforms - edoxOnline, CargoX, TradeGo and WaveBL - as well as BNY Mellon and Deutsche Bank, Swift then ran a Proof of Concept, to test the use of a single ubiquitous API contract to open up a secure channel with Swift and reproduce the end-to-end flow transfer process of an eBL in a simulated trade transaction.

The PoC "successfully demonstrated that financial institutions could exchange eBL across multiple trade platforms using their existing Swift connectivity - instead of having to connect to each platform individually".

Swift says it will now work with the industry on addressing challenges in the areas of legal interoperability, technical accessibility, ecosystem-wide standards and adoption ahead of any production-ready offering.

Joon Kim, global head, trade finance, BNY Mellon, says: "There is potential for banks to reuse their Swift infrastructure to reduce the time, and most importantly the costs, associated with document exchange. This work could not only benefit BNY Mellon, but also our clients in removing the frictions that paper Bills of Lading cause today."

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