Assessment of legal instruments and applicability to the use of electronic bills of lading

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Abstract

Purpose - This study mainly investigates two potential legal regimes expected to govern the use of electronic bills of lading: the Rotterdam Rules (2009) and the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (2017). Widespread use of electronic bills of lading has been unsuccessful partly due to the absence of a uniform legal regime and protracted uncertainties. This paper aims to carry out an assessment of the possibilities where either of two potential legal regimes could provide certainty to the effect and validity of the use of electronic bills of lading, and contribute to the facilitation of electronically transferring the rights to goods carried by sea. Design/methodology - This paper first introduces two legal instruments and the relevance to electronic bills of lading. Since neither of these legal instruments has yet entered into force, the following section looks into the ratification or enactment possibilities based on a literature review and track records of the past legal regimes of the same kind. Assessment of the different adoption possibilities further requires comparative work of the two legal instruments, which will be based on an analysis of relevant provisions and a literature review. The literature review on the Rotterdam Rules delves into various studies and data produced since the UNCITRAL’s adoption in 2009. The literature review on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records heavily relies on UNCITRAL working group documents from 2011 to 2017 together with the final explanatory note. Findings - The main findings can be summarized as follows. Application of the Rotterdam Rules would negate the role of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records assisting in the implementation of the Rotterdam Rules due to some conflicting issues. Enactment of the UNCITRAL Model Law alone can sufficiently provide a higher level of certainty in the use and effect of electronic bills of lading so long as lawmakers and parties are aware of some issues with the application. What concerns potential users most is the extension of the status quo, where neither of the legal instruments have any effect. It is necessary to take a number of alternatives into consideration, such as promotion of standard clauses and confirmation by a court ruling. Originality/value - Existing studies focus either on the Rotterdam Rules or on the UNCITRAL Model Law, but not both. Not many papers have yet dealt with the Model Law, which was adopted by UNCITRAL only 2 years ago, particularly in the context of a potential legal regime for electronic bills of lading. This paper attempts to introduce the differences between the two legal instruments in regulating the use of electronic bills of lading while providing an assessment of the various possibilities for which parties involved in international trade can be better prepared for the changing legal environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Korea Trade
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Industrial relations
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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