Businessman in suit with laptop and tablet signing a digital document.

Boost for electronic bills of lading as UK adopts Electronic Trade Documents Act

Published: 24 August 2023

On 20 July 2023 the United Kingdom enacted an important new law that promises to transform the way international trade is conducted electronically. The Electronic Trade Document Act 2023 means that businesses that rely on English law are now legally permitted to exchange bills of lading and other trade documents electronically.

Although it is a relatively minor change in the law, it is likely to have a significant impact on the way maritime trade is conducted. International shipping relies heavily on English law as the governing law for charter parties and other maritime agreements. This is also true for bills of lading where it is estimated that 80-90% of all bulk shipping bills are governed by English law. So, the impact of this new legislation will extend beyond the UK’s shores to embrace the global trade ecosystem. It is an extremely important milestone for trade digitalisation and supports similar initiatives to adopt electronic trade document laws in other countries, such as Singapore.

BIMCO very much welcomes and celebrates this development. We look forward to other trading nations following suit very soon. We are greatly encouraged that there is now real momentum for legislative change around the globe, notably among the G7.

Are you interested in being part of the movement towards trade digitalisation in the shipping industry? Show your support by joining BIMCO’s 25 by 25 Pledge. Our Standards, Innovation and Research team would also be happy to have a chat with you about how you can start your journey - please don't hesitate to contact us.


Mads Wacher Kjaergaard

Manager, Standards, Innovation and Research

Copenhagen, Denmark