Practicability of successfully achieving a paperless sea trade: electronic vs paper Bills of Lading.
Ngcobo, Nompumelelo Portia.
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Increase in electronic commerce create challenges to the use of the existing laws and the traditional modes of concluding contracts, including the use of paper bills of lading. As a result, this induces a need for the shipping industry to conform to international trade by adopting electronic trading tools such as electronic bill of lading and do away with paper based bill of lading. The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility in replacing the paper bill of lading with an electronic bill of lading. In addition, whether the paper bills of lading functions, particularly that of transfer of ownership can be adequately replicated in an electronic bill of lading. In addition, the study will address the lack of adequate regulatory regimes and look at whether the Rotterdam Rules satisfactorily address issues associated with the use of electronic bills of lading. Finally, an evaluation of whether Africa is ready to deal with paperless sea trade or it is only the developed states which are ready. This thesis is based on a qualitative approach as opposed to quantitative approach. As such it will involve a desktop review, analysis and critical evaluation of various legal materials. Both primary and secondary legal authorities will be explored to provide the nature, developments and feasibility of the electronic bills of lading. The findings are that the existing legislations only recognises paper bills of lading. As a result, merchants are reluctant to switch to electronic bills of lading for many reasons including security. Further, that successfully achieving a paperless sea trade depends on well drafted rules and regulations; its continuous existence and use greatly depends on the shippers. To address and overcome the challenges preventing the use of electronic commerce, Electronic Bills of Lading, legislations should be enacted. These legislations should incorporate, amongst other things, provisions affording electronic bills of lading the same status as that of the paper bills of lading. That the Rotterdam Rules should be amended in accordance to accommodate all the party’s needs. Lastly, that there must be ways of ensuring secure electronic trading to eliminate the element of fraud.