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Reforming English Law to enable electronic bills of lading: The Law Commission’s Electronic Trade Documents project

LISW21 retrospective

Posted on: 26 September 2021

Co-organised by Maritime London and the Law Commission as part of the LISW21, the event was hosted by Quadrant Chambers for a limited audience at Quadrant House in Fleet Street and streamed live via Zoom to over 200 online attendees.

The Law Commission of England and Wales is a statutory, independent body, which aims to ensure that the law is as fair, modern, simple and cost-effective as possible. On the basis of research and consultation with stakeholders, the Law Commission makes recommendations for reform to Government. In 2020 the Law Commission was asked by Government to consider how the law of England and Wales should be reformed to facilitate the digitisation of trade documentation including bills of lading, ship’s delivery orders and cargo insurance certificates. On 30th April 2021 it published a consultation paper, which outlined its research, proposals for reform and a draft Bill designed to implement those proposals. Responses to this consultation were due by 30th July 2021, and the Law Commission is aiming to publish its final report and recommendations in early 2022.

Law Commissioner for Commercial and Common Law Prof Sarah Green, who gave an overview of the proposals together with some insight into the responses received from stakeholders, said: “This discussion at this event provided a valuable contribution to the developing thinking in this area, not least because it brought together a broad range of people, organisations and perspectives.”

Prof Miriam Goldby, Professor of Shipping, Insurance and Commercial Law & CCLS Research Director & Director, Insurance, Shipping and Aviation Law Institute, who moderated the discussion commented: “The audience was introduced to the Law Commission’s Electronic Trade Documents project, the aim of which is to enable transferable trade documents such as bills of lading to be issued and used in electronic form. It was also given an overview of Tradelens, one of the commercially available electronic platforms which offers an digital equivalent to the paper bill of lading. The panel discussed the practical and legal challenges currently experienced by industry participants wanting to digitalise their documentation processes and the extent to which law reform might assist them to meet these challenges.”

The panellists included Nick Austin, Partner of Reed Smith LLP. Mark Brattman, Claims Director, ITIC, Michael Howard QC, Barrister, Quadrant Chambers, Stephen Chapman, Marine Claims Manager, Ascot Group and Stewart Jeacocke, Senior Member of the TradeLens Collaboration, Chair of Foundation Carriers Council.

Watch the replay of the event here and download the slides here.

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