Bill of lading

Ship goods, not documents


trace:original bills of lading

4 billion paper documents circulate in trade around the globe daily, in order to get the goods to their destinations.

Let's put an end to it! Enigio's trace:original is able to digitise any trade document, even negotiable instruments like bills of lading. It works in accordance with MLETR and gives you a fully digital workflow that is faster, safer, more sustainable and cost-efficient.

The most important document, still not updated to a digital world

The bill of lading is the most important commercial document in the whole shipping and freight chain, it has three main functions; it contains evidence of contract of carriage, it works as a receipt of goods, as well as the document of title to the goods, but is usually issued as a physical paper document signed and stamped by the carrier or PDF files. However, both methods have serious drawbacks such as fraud risk, high costs, lead time to produce, manage and store as well as large environmental impacts.

Drawbacks of paper and PDF

Traditionally, the bill of lading - especially the negotiable one - is issued as a physical paper document signed and stamped by the carrier. This bill of lading is then physically couriered, together with other documents such as invoice, packing list and certificate of origin to the consignee or receiver at destination for release. If the transaction is financed through a documentary payment, all the documents are also physically transferred between the exporter’s and importer’s banks.

Paper handling and courier dispatch create time lag and bottlenecks in the logistic process. Manual entry, copying and handling of shipping data makes for inefficient and tedious work with risk of errors and high costs. The paper based process has inherent security and fraud risks while tons of co2 is released every day just from document handling.

With so many drawbacks, it is tempting to replace paper with a PDF file, however, normally PDFs are not legally recognised. According to current regulations, the verifier of a bill of lading will need to see the original document. Also, when using a PDF it is possible to add or remove information without any audit trail of these changes, opening up for fraud.


Benefits of trace:original bill of lading

A trace:original digital bill of lading combines the positive aspects of both methods while adding unique advantages when executing an export or import trade transaction:

Transfer times down to seconds. trace:original digital bills of lading eases time lag bottlenecks in the logistic process and eliminates the risk of goods arriving before documentation.

If a documentary payment is used for financing the trade, trace:original digital bills of lading will also improve cash flow due to the reduced transfer time between the parties.

trace:original can handle any trade document, giving you a completely digital, more user friendly, and less manual process with significantly reduced cost.

trace:original bills of lading can be sent, received, and managed by everyone in the trade process, the only requirement is a computer and internet access, making it accessible and inclusive for everyone from large trading houses to freight forwarders and local agents.

Every trace:original bill of lading is cryptographically secured and evidenced in a public distributed ledger, minimising the possibility for forgery and fraud. Yet no business data is ever stored on the ledger, ensuring complete data privacy.

Accessible and interoperable

trace:original bills of lading are created as PDF documents and readable by anyone that can read normal PDFs. However, each document also contains structured data in JSON format, that enables any system to parse the document, even without connecting to API:s. This enables an automated process that is both efficient and robust, while retaining the possibility for manual verification.

trace:original bills of lading can be freely sent in seconds, received, and managed by everyone in the trade process and it can be used within, between or outside of trade platforms. Only the issuer of the bill of lading needs to be a customer of Enigio and after issuance it is free to use forever.

Safe and secure

Traceability  – Contains full audit trail of events within the document
Data ownership - no business or personal data shared or stored outside of the trace:original bill of lading document.
Transparency – process visibility throughout the transaction cycle.
Storage – digitally stored by the owner and digital back-ups possible

Protection – only the one in possession has the right to add new content, transfer possession or invalidate, no-one can manipulate what has been written.
Authenticity – Document authenticity can be verified by anyone at any time
Evidence – Current or older version of document verifiable via its evidence stored on the block chain (Public Notary)

Legal framework

MLETR: A law that accepts a digital bill of lading

An electronic transferable record is defined as information generated, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means, including, where appropriate, all information logically associated with or otherwise linked together so as to become part of the record.

An electronic transferable record ‘shall not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability on the sole ground that it is in electronic form’.

Therefore, to maintain its legal enforceability, a digital document must replicate the properties of the paper equivalent regarding:

  • its nature as an original
  • its function relative to a holder (i.e., the party that has ‘possession’ of the original document)
  • its transferability

Read the whitepaper "Using trace:original for digitzing documents according to MLETR" for a deep dive into the combination of trace:original and MLETR.


Using trace:original bills of lading will contribute to fulfilling the following UN sustainable development goals:

Asset 3

SME growth and prosperity since:

  • It will be easier to  set up and execute a transaction
  • Smaller amounts and shorter tenors are possible
  • They can have access to ECA financing and guarantees
Asset 2

Innovation and infrastructure:

  • As easy, affordable and interoperable as using paper
Asset 1

Reduce carbon emissions, fresh water and land use by reducing:

  • Paper documents/production
  • All physical transportation of the documents

trace:original bill of lading process

trace:original digital bills of lading can be used as a drop-in replacement for paper without the need for process change. The only difference is that the BL stays digital and is sent and received as a digital document.

Other documents, such as invoices, export declarations and certificates of origin can be attached digitally and sent along with a trace:original digital bill of lading as well, just like with paper documents.

With trace:original you can maintain a completely digital process, letting you ship goods, not documents.


Bills of lading and trace:orignal – a perfect combination

Accessible and interoperable

Computer and internet only requirement

Digitally interoperable between anyone and any system

Readable by man and machine

Can contain a standard and/or a schema

Enables straight through processing (STP)

Safe and

Tamper proof and fraud safe

No sharing of business or personal data outside of document

Full audit trail

Cost and time

Minimal lead times

90% cost reduction


Reduce carbon emissions

Help SMEs growth
and prosperity

Promote infrastructure development 

All the benefits
of bills of lading

Asset 69

All the features of digital documents

Asset 23

digital bill of lading


Get started!

Schedule a one-on-one call to see how trace:original can help you achieve a fully digital end-to-end workflow with digital original documents, without any changes to your existing infrastructure.

In the call we will go through your specific needs and suggest a matching solution. We will also go through a live demo of trace:original, creating your first digital original document.

Schedule individual call

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