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The proposed Rotterdam Rules for cargo liability in intermodal ocean transportation could be a gateway for interchanging electronic bills of lading, said Juerg Bandle, Kuehne & Nagel senior vice president for ocean freight, on Tuesday in remarks to members of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association.
The Rotterdam Rules for the first time recognize the legality of electronic transactions, Bandle said. The provision could lead to a uniform system in which shippers, carriers and banks could transact business in a paperless environment. Booking cargo, exchanging letters of credit and issuing bills of lading could be done electronically. Ocean carriers and shippers could have the same uniformity that air carriers have had since the creation of the universal airway bill.
The Rotterdam Rules, which were signed last September, are a new liability regime for moving intermodal cargo by sea with connecting inland transport. Twenty countries must ratify the rules for them to take effect. So far none have. In the United States, the rules would replace the 1936 Carriage of Goods by Sea Act.
Bandle emphasized that the idea was only in its infancy but said that he had discussed it with INTTRA, the ocean cargo data exchange. INTTRA was originally owned by ocean carriers, but is now held by a private investment group. He asked NCBFAA members attending his presentation for a show of hands by those who were interested. About a dozen brokers in an audience of about 40 raised their hands.