Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), in association with its nine member-carriers, announced the formation of the Future International Trade (FIT) Alliance with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between DCSA, BIMCO, International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and SWIFT to standardise the digitalisation of international trade.

"The FIT Alliance will work together to generate awareness about the importance of common and interoperable data standards and common legislative conditions across international jurisdictions and platforms. The aim is to facilitate acceptance and adoption of an eBL by regulators, banks and insurers and to unify communication between these organisations and customers, physical and contractual carriers and all other stakeholders involved in an international trade transaction," according to an official release from DCSA.

"From the beginning, DCSA has understood the importance of cross-industry collaboration to achieve the elusive goal of universal eBL," says Thomas Bagge, DCSA CEO. "The FIT Alliance is one exciting result of our ongoing effort to drive that collaboration. Container ships carry 90 percent of the world's goods. As such, an incredibly diverse set of stakeholders touches the B/L transaction — from government regulators, to insurers, to shippers from every industry. To achieve widespread use of eBL, they must all be on board with adopting digital B/L standards."

"The digitalisation of documentation for container shipments will add value for international suppliers who rely on shipping across sectors," says David Loosley, Secretary General and CEO, BIMCO. "Aligning these standards with the electronic bill of lading standard for the dry and liquid bulk sectors, which we are developing with assistance from DCSA, will help accelerate the digitalisation of trade globally."

Dr. Stephane Graber, Director General, FIATA added: "Interoperability between all actors of the trade and transport industry is the key foundation to enable smooth data exchange and to streamline the end-to-end shipping process for our members. FIATA, as the owner of the only negotiable multimodal transport document, endorsed by UNCTAD and ICC, is convinced that an industry-wide effort to establish open-source, interoperable, technology-agnostic standards is essential to make digitalisation of international trade a reality."

ICC represents 45 million companies in over 100 countries, and the mission is to make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere, says John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary General, ICC. "Living up to that means finding ways to make international trade far less complex than it currently is. Through the FIT Alliance, we are collaborating with key industry players to create and accelerate the adoption of digital standards for bills of lading that will make international shipping dramatically more simple, secure and seamless."

David Watson, Chief Strategy Officer, SWIFT, added: "SWIFT is the way the world moves value, connecting 11,500 institutions in more than 200 countries and facilitating over $2 trillion in global trade every year. We have significantly accelerated cross-border flows in recent years and are innovating at scale to make them instant. To that end, we are delighted to be part of this cross-industry collaboration to tackle friction through standardisation and enable interoperability across the ecosystem to allow rich data to flow freely between multiple platforms."

The agreement between DCSA and industry associations is an exciting milestone in the journey towards standardising all container shipping documentation through the eDocumentation initiative, Bagge added.

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