Thomas Bagge, CEO, Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA)
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Thomas Bagge, CEO, Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA)

Challenges are opportunities for improvement, and I am very enthusiastic about the possibilities that still exist to improve the customer experience, remove waste and make the industry more sustainable. This is achievable if we collaborate. We have the technology, tools and capabilities to drive change for the better.
The customer experience still isn’t where it needs to be, compared to more digitally advanced industries like banking, telco and retail. Parties involved in container shipping must be equipped to exchange accurate, timely information in formats that enable rapid, informed decision-making. Unfortunately, slow, error-prone, paper-based processes endure; they’re costly, and they detract from the experience — and growth — of global trade. 

Digitalization is one of the levers for change, and there is progress. Over the past year, our standardized APIs have been called on more than 100 million times per month. More is needed, but we are pleased with the momentum. 

Regulators are moving too. As the first of the G7 countries, the UK’s passing of the Electronic Trade Documents Act marks a major milestone toward digital trade. We see several countries taking similar action, and the UN continues to drive adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. 

The percentage of electronic bills of lading has increased too — from 1.2% at the end of 2021 to 3.7% in the fourth quarter of 2023, in support of paperless trade. Standardized, timely and digital communication can improve efficiency, visibility and sustainability. Digital standards assist by bringing an interoperable layer to different platforms and systems shippers and transport providers use. 

Standards and technology create a foundation for the digital evolution, but the biggest challenge we face concerns people and process. To reap the benefits of the opportunities we have, and solve the sustainability challenge, collaboration is fundamental — it is ultimately about people.