Blockchain Bills of Lading

NUS Law Working Paper No. 2018/020

NUS - Centre for Maritime Law Working Paper 18/07

45 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2018

See all articles by Elson Ong

Elson Ong

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for Maritime Law

Date Written: August 2, 2018


The advent of blockchain technology will, in future, usher in a long-awaited shift away from paper bills of lading. Several maritime hubs, including Singapore, are exploring the possibility of digitalising trade and maritime documentation, such as bills of lading, using blockchain technology. However, there is still considerable uncertainty concerning the legal value of blockchain bills of lading, as with other electronic bills of lading. This paper analyses why electronic bills of lading on the registry model are not suitable for use as bills of lading in Common Law jurisdictions and discusses the suitability of blockchain bills of lading. The adoption of the MLETR may provide a legal regime for blockchain bills of lading. Key articles of the MLETR are considered, leading to a proposal for an amended version. This will entrench a sustainable, resilient and robust framework that will prepare Common Law jurisdictions for the new technological age in the shipping industry.

Keywords: Blockchain, Bills of lading, Possession, Control, Unique, Transferable, Registry, Token, Key

Suggested Citation

Ong, Elson, Blockchain Bills of Lading (August 2, 2018). NUS Law Working Paper No. 2018/020. Available at SSRN: or

Elson Ong (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for Maritime Law ( email )

Bukit Timah Road 469 G

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