Bills-of-Lading Go "e"

APL says e-BL technology will cut paperwork, payment cycle times and costs

Oakland, CA  November 28, 2001  Ocean carrier APL unveiled a new electronic process that the company says will eliminate the need for paper bills-of-lading and reduce costs for international trading partners.

Using the new process, exporters will be able to automatically transmit encrypted negotiable bills-of-lading (BLs) via the Internet directly to multiple third-party providers, such as forwarders, consignees and the customer's own bank, according to APL, which is the global container-transportation unit of Singapore-based NOL Group.

APL has offered remote printing capabilities for BLs since 1996, but the company says the new process is the first product that allows electronic documentation from the beginning of the process through to the bank.

"This capability, known as E-BL Print, triggers speedier documentation and financial settlements," said Cindy Stoddard, APL's chief information officer. "By taking days out of the traditional, time-consuming document preparation, review and settlement process, the exporter gets paid faster."

Under the E-BL Print process, all parties specified in the customer's personalized profile will receive secure shipping documents electronically. "Reviewing or printing them is as easy as opening an e-mail attachment," said APL's vice president of e-commerce, Phillip Chin. "Moreover, the exporter retains complete control over who can print the document and even how many copies can be viewed or printed. This is a boon to customers who are concerned about protecting confidential information in e-commerce."

Chin said documents either can be downloaded from APL's Web site or received as e-mail attachments.

A bill of lading attests that the ocean carrier has taken delivery of goods. Banks need to see a signed original of the BL before they will release funds to the seller.

Traditionally the BL process took an average of six days because paper copies had to be relayed back and forth between carrier, forwarder and exporter for review and modification. Since 1996, technology has allowed the document to be remotely printed at the customer's office, saving four or more days and enabling sellers to get paid sooner. But until now an original hard copy of the document still had to be delivered to the bank.

APL says its customers that use APL's suite of BL-related e-commerce products can now save interest expenses for working capital by gaining faster payment, and eliminating courier or overnight delivery charges. E-BL Print allows customers to review and modify documents online and print them directly at the bank, APL said.

California-based Electronics For Imaging (EFI), an encryption and printing technologies provider, developed the new software for APL.

APL says its customers have already expressed interest in the new process. For example, DuPont China Ltd., the Hong Kong office of the DuPont Co., is going to upgrade to the new encrypted E-BL Print service. "This is critical to our product distribution between Asian countries," said Joseph Wong, DuPont's director of sourcing and logistics in Asia Pacific, "because the Internet technology employed by this new service can ensure expedited documentation, financial settlement and, above all, on-time product delivery  one of our commitments to customers."

Atlanta-based PM Global Foods, which ships fresh and frozen beef, poultry, pork and other foodstuffs throughout the world, has been piloting the technology. Michael Hampel, logistics manager for PM Global Foods, said: "We have seen an improvement of at least three to five days in overall document turn-around time, compared to our other ocean carriers. I have also seen a big reduction in our courier and delivery charges."

The new electronic capability is available in Asia, Europe and the Americas in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.