THE enormous ships steaming into and out of the world’s ports do not only carry cargo. They also represent paperwork: bills of lading (BOLs), packing lists, letters of credit, insurance policies, orders, invoices, sanitary certificates, certificates of origin. Maersk, the world’s biggest container-shipping line, found that a shipment of avocados from Mombasa to Rotterdam in 2014 entailed more than 200 communications involving 30 parties.

A giant container vessel may be associated with hundreds of thousands of documents. “A Venetian merchant…would recognise some of our documentation,” says John Laurens, head of global transaction services at DBS, a Singaporean bank.

According to the World Economic Forum, the costs of processing trade documents are as much as a fifth of those of shifting goods. Removing administrative blockages in supply chains could do more to boost international trade than eliminating tariffs.

Read more: The digitisation of trade’s paper trail may be at hand

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Published by Mike Rawson

Mike Rawson has recently re-awoken a long-standing interest in robots and our automated future. He lives in London with a single android - a temperamental vacuum cleaner - but is looking forward to getting more cyborgs soon.

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The digitisation of trade’s paper trail may be at hand

by Mike Rawson time to read: 1 min
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