What is an e-bill of lading?

An e-bill of lading is a digital alternative to the traditional paper bill of lading. Learn more about its advantages, disadvantages, and process to obtain it.
e-bill of lading
In international trade, the electronic bill of lading (e-bill of lading) has brought about a major shift in the way commercial transactions are conducted. This digitization of the traditional bill of lading has several benefits, such as streamlined processes and enhanced efficiency. But, like any technological advancement, it also has its own challenges.

In this blog, we will understand what an e-bill of lading is, its advantages and disadvantages, and how it impacts the import-export process.

What is an e-bill of lading?

An e-bill of lading is a digital alternative to the traditional paper bill of lading, a crucial document for shipping cargo from India. It serves the same legal functions as its paper version:

• It is a receipt confirming the transfer of goods to the carrier (shipping company)
• Proof of contract between shipper and carrier
• Document of title indicating ownership of goods

The e-bill of lading utilizes digital technology to offer enhanced security, efficiency, and transparency in the trade process1.

How does an e-bill of lading work?

An e-bill of lading electronically records and transmits the bill’s details, allowing access and transfer without physical paper. This process typically involves secure digital signatures and encryption to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the document.

Benefits of e-bill of lading

Some of the commonly known benefits of e-BoL are2:

Efficiency and speed:

Reduces the time required for document processing and transfer.

Security and reduced risk of fraud:

Digital encryption and signatures minimize the risk of forgery and loss.


Eliminates the costs associated with printing, handling, and couriering paper documents.

Greater accessibility:

Readily accessible and can be shared electronically among parties involved.

Environmental sustainability:

Reduces the need for paper, contributing to eco-friendly business practices.

Disadvantages of an e-bill of lading

Some of the disadvantages of an e-bill of lading are:

Technological barriers:

Requires digital infrastructure and familiarity with digital systems.

Legal and regulatory challenges:

Not all countries have laws recognizing electronic documents, leading to legal complexities.

Security concerns:

Although secure, it's not immune to cyber threats.

Adoption barriers:

The widespread adoption of e-BoLs requires industry-wide collaboration and acceptance of electronic signatures.

How does an e-bill of lading improve import-export process?

E-bill of lading streamlines the import-export process by3:

Improving visibility:

e-BoLs provide real-time tracking of shipment status, enhancing transparency.

Facilitating trade finance:

e-BoLs simplify trade finance transactions by serving as electronic collateral.

Enhancing data accuracy:

e-BoLs reduce errors and discrepancies through digital data capture and verification.

The electronic bill of lading represents a significant step forward in the digitalization of international trade. It is especially beneficial for e-commerce exporters who sell their products online on programs like Amazon Global Selling.

Amazon Global Selling: Easy e-commerce exports and hassle-free shipping

If you are a business owner and you want to sell your products to the world, Amazon Global Selling enables you to list and sell ‘Made in India’ products on 18 Amazon global marketplaces. As an e-commerce exports program, Amazon Global Selling provides support and guidance at every step of your exports journey – documents and licenses, logistics, payments, advertising, and more.

Registered sellers can choose to ship their products by themselves through Merchant Fulfilled Network (MFN) or they can opt for Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and outsource order fulfillment to Amazon including packing, storage, delivery, and returns. Amazon Global Selling simplifies the process of international shipping to the world, helping businesses navigate customs and reach a vast audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I switch to e-BoLs?
• Improved speed and efficiency: Transactions that traditionally took days or weeks can now be completed in hours.
• Cost-effective: You will save on printing, courier, and storage expenses.
• Improved security: Reduces risks of loss, theft, or damage. Digital signatures and encryption ensure authenticity of documents.
• Greater accuracy: Minimizes human errors that can occur when manually entering data in paper Bols.
• Accessibility: Can be electronically accessed by people in any part of the world, allowing swift and seamless coordination.
How does e-bill of lading facilitate international trade?
E-BoLs transform the slow traditional paperwork process into a swift, digital workflow, enhancing the efficiency of document handling and transfer. E-BoLs also offer real-time tracking, granting all parties instant access to shipment information, which improves visibility and transparency throughout the supply chain. It reduces delays commonly caused by the misplacement ordamage of paper documents and provides enhanced security through digital signatures and encryption. E-BoLs also simplify compliance with international trade regulations and standards, as they can be quickly updated and standardized across different jurisdictions. In summary, e-BoLs are instrumental in modernizing international trade as it is more efficient, secure, environmentally sustainable.
Published on December 26, 2023.


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*Map not to scale. The map has been used for design and representational purpose only, it does not depict the geographical boundaries of the country. These do not conform to the external boundaries of India recognized by the Survey of India.