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HFW certifies ICE CargoDocs as a ‘reliable system’ under the UK’s Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023

Electronic Trade Documents Act
ICE CargoDocs
electronic bill of lading
local law eB/L
English law
Digital Trade
Matthew Cox
Marina Comninos
  HFW certifies ICE CargoDocs under ETDA

The UK’s Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA) is a major milestone in the push for digital trade, recognizing electronic negotiable trade documents such as bills of lading (eB/Ls), warehouse warrants, bills of exchange and promissory notes as the legal equivalent of their paper counterparts.

One of the requirements of the ETDA is that the system used to issue, endorse, present and manage these negotiable instruments is ‘reliable’.

This week, the global law firm, HFW, issued the first legal opinion certifying that ICE CargoDocs is a ‘reliable system’ under the ETDA. This reliability assessment considered all the criteria set out in the Act against ICE CargoDocs’ eB/L capabilities: technical, functional, contractual, operational.

As a result, ICE CargoDocs eB/Ls incorporating an English law and jurisdiction clause are recognised by the ETDA as documents capable of being endorsed and possessed digitally, in an analogous manner to the way paper negotiable B/Ls are physically endorsed and possessed.

With this ETDA Reliable System certification, we openly invite all interested parties to participate in local law negotiable eB/L trials using ICE CargoDocs. While the challenge of achieving critical mass adoption remains, local law eB/Ls will be the foundation that the future of negotiable electronic title documents will be built upon.

Matthew Cox, Partner, HFW, said: “We are delighted to have been able to work with ICE Digital Trade in relation to the implications of the new UK ETDA legislation. We are confident the ETDA will give a major boost to digitalisation of global trade and trade finance and all the benefits digitalisation will bring. We look forward to partnering with ICE Digital Trade and other market participants as this exciting new opportunity for our industry develops.”

Marina Comninos, Co-Head, ICE Digital Trade, added: “This is the dawn of a new era, as laws in various countries change to recognize electronic trade documents. ICE CargoDocs has provided negotiable eB/Ls to the industry reliably for 14 years. We now look forward to broader adoption and platform interoperability, as the law catches up with industry’s digital vanguard.”

The UK’s ETDA is a watershed moment for digital trade, giving statutory recognition to electronic negotiable trade documents governed by English law. Alongside the earlier enactment of Singapore’s Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Act in 2021, it marks the beginning of the end of legal hurdles towards adopting eB/Ls – paving the way for the use of ‘local law’ eB/Ls, meaning eB/Ls that are valid because they are subject to a law which governs them, as opposed to ones which achieve their legal validity through a ‘contractual’ framework (such as the DSUA).

Join us in re-shaping the future of digital trade, as we embrace this pivotal moment for eB/L adoption with boundless optimism and prudence in equal measure – leveraging our 14 years’ experience supporting change management efforts across the world’s largest eB/L network.


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