Shipping accounts for a large share of the global transport volume. In 2010, a total of 60,053 bio. ton-kilometres were covered. By the year 2050, this figure is expected to quadruple. In Germany, over 316 million tonnes of goods were handled in the peak year of 2008, i.e. before the global economic crisis.
Modern merchant shipping is characterised by the use of a large number of different documents. The documentation requirements cover everything from the keeping of ship certificates to the preparation of ship records and transport documents, which are necessary for the actual transport of goods.
The Bill of Lading (B/L) is still the most important document for freight transport. It fulfils several functions: On the one hand, it proves that a good has been taken over by the carrier in the form described. On the other hand, it secures the obligation to deliver the goods to the place of destination and to deliver them to the consignee. In addition, the transfer of the good specified in the B/L can be replaced by the transfer of the B/L (title function). Until now, it has been necessary for the B/L to be handed over in paper form by the parties involved in the transport process so that they can check the documents. The expense of time and money required is immense.
The German legislator has recognized the necessity of electronic B/L and, with the introduction of § 516 Para. 2 HGB (German Commercial Code), has equated its electronic recording with the B/L. Prerequisite is the functional equivalence of the digital B/L. Digital B/L, also known as Token B/L, can be created, transferred and checked for correctness within seconds by mouse click. The entire document transfer is thus considerably accelerated and the problem of delivery of the transported goods without presentation of paper-based B/L is solved. The central goal of the project is to develop a platform based on distributed ledger technology that enables the creation and trading of digital tokens. These tokens serve as electronic B/L.
The permanent legal supervision of the project ensures that the token B/L meets the legal requirements at all times. The project thus makes a considerable contribution to the federal government's blockchain strategy. In addition, the use of the Token-B/L will enormously accelerate trade and ultimately make it more cost-efficient. Particularly against the background of the still ongoing crisis in shipping, companies are dependent on further cost savings. The use of the Token-B/L eliminates the need for time-consuming paper-supported documentation of the transport as well as the time-consuming manual checking of documents. Containers for which a Token-B/L has been issued can be put back into circulation up to 5 days faster.