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Legal Framework & DSUA

Our eDoc Exchange Solution – Exchange Title Docs (formerly DocEx) – achieves legal validity through an industry-accepted multi-partite legal agreement, the Databridge Services & Users Agreement (DSUA), as well as through the manner in which the CargoDocs electronic Bill of Lading and other key eTitle documents such as eWarehouse Warrants are managed within the solution. 

DSUA Overview 

The principal agreement which underpins the CargoDocs eB/L is the DSUA User Agreement. It regulates the operation of the solution and provides the legal framework within which the Users can create and send shipping documents, including Bills of Lading, electronically. 

Essential Characteristics 

The key feature of the DSUA is that it is a multilateral agreement between all Users of the CargoDocs Document Exchange and between each User and essDOCS. This is a prerequisite for the creation of legally effective eDocs (and, in particular, electronic Bills of lading), ensuring that all participants are committed to treating electronic documentation as the functional and legal equivalent of paper Bills of Lading. 


    The approved version is the result of extensive comment and has received industry approvals from a number of sources: 

    • International Group of P&I Clubs: essDOCS has obtained IG Approval on each occasion when it has updated the DSUA, the most recent being May 2021 (version 2021.1, effective as of 1 July 2021). Prior to that, versions 2013.1, 2009.3 and 2007.2 had also been approved. IG approval involved a comprehensive review of the DSUA by US and UK Counsel for the IG. Furthermore, on each occasion, the 13 Clubs of the International Group issue Circulars confirming to all members that standard P&I risks associated with the carriage of cargo under a CargoDocs eB/L are within members’ standard terms of cover, provided they have signed either version 2021.1, 2013.1 or 2009.3 of the DSUA. 
    • Leadership in Energy Automated Processing: LEAP (representing Oil Majors, Trading Houses & Banks) appointed a leading QC to review the DSUA to demonstrate that, in principle, eB/Ls can be used instead of paper Bills of Lading. The opinion, given in January 2008, does not raise any barriers to their use. 
    • Through Transport Mutual Services (UK) Limited (TT Club): members of the TT Club are covered for risks arising from their use of essDOCS’ eB/L solution. 
    • Industry Workshops: from 2006 to 2009, a number of workshops were held with stakeholders (including ExxonMobil, Total, BP, Shell, Statoil and ConocoPhillips) to obtain feedback on the terms of the DSUA. Their comments, as well as those of their outside counsel, were incorporated in the approved DSUA. 

    Signatories & Amendment Procedure 

    The industry approved DSUA has been signed by a number of key stakeholders, including leading Oil Majors, Commodity Traders, Banks, Tanker Operators, Ship Agents and Independent Inspectors. As such, because of its multilateral nature, it can only be amended by using the formal mechanism in the Agreement – which involves the Legal Workgroup of the DDG. 

    Other Contracts 

    Use of eDocs will also impact on other contracts relating to the international sale of goods. As a result, appended to the DSUA are model clauses which can be used to amend Charterparties, Sale of Goods Contracts and Documentary Credits to allow for the use of eDocs across the board. 

    Legal Notice

    This page is intended to give a high level overview of the DSUA. It is not intended to identify all issues which a potential User may consider significant. If you would like to set up a call to introduce the structure of the Agreement and explain some of the reasoning behind it, please contact our legal department by email: