International experiences with the dematerialization of negotiable transport documents
Following the consideration of the proposal by China (A/CN.9/998) and a note by the Secretariat (A/CN.9/1034) on possible future work by UNCITRAL towards the development of a negotiable transport document, UNCITRAL, at its fifty-second session, requested its secretariat to conduct research on legal issues related to the use of railway or other consignment notes, and at its fifty-third session, UNCITRAL requested its secretariat to start preparatory work towards the development of a new international instrument on multimodal negotiable transport documents that could be used for contracts not involving carriage by sea. UNCITRAL concurred with the assessment of its secretariat that the inclusion of electronic transport documents in that work would be particularly timely for supporting the new types of supply chain and logistics models expected to develop in response to the widespread business disruptions caused by the COVID-19.
The results of the exploratory and preparatory work conducted so far by the secretariat indicate that the work on a negotiable transport document should primarily focus on electronic negotiable transport documents (ENTDs) being used for different modes of transportation, not limited to maritime, and different combinations thereof (multimodal transportation). ENTDs intend to encompass also electronic transport documents, which are, although non-negotiable/non-transferable, fulfil functionalities of document of title (e.g., a straight bill of lading).
While UNCITRAL accumulated some expertise and knowledge on the subject of ENTDs in conjunction with its work on the Rotterdam Rules and the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR), relevant laws, regulations, standards, practices and case law have evolved, requiring their new survey. As a first step, the UNCITRAL secretariat is organizing on 13 and 14 April an open webinar to assess ENTD-related legal developments and seek views of the wide legal community on them.