In our October 2021 blog “Possession as we (don’t) know it!”, we discussed the existing position under English law in respect of electronic trade documents and the scope for reform in light of the Law Commission’s consultation paper and draft legislation “Digital assets: electronic trade documents (2021) Law Commission Consultation Paper No 254”, published on 30 April 2021.
Continue Reading Solving the ‘possession’ problem – Law Commission publishes draft legislation for the legal recognition of electronic trade documents

Possession and tangibility are closely related concepts long established under English law. Yet a change to these concepts is around the corner. The change could finally unlock the full potential of digital trade documents, while at the same time keeping English law at the forefront of global commerce.

The existing position under English law is that one cannot legally ‘possess’, or have physical control of, something intangible (not including intellectual property rights, which are governed by separate rules). This means that a purely electronic or digital trade document cannot be possessed, and so cannot fulfil the legal functions of its possessable paper equivalent. But the UK Law Commission’s recent proposals for the reform of English law regarding possession of electronic trade documents and the accompanying draft legislation (the Draft Bill) suggest that more universal digitisation of electronic bills of lading and other trade documents will soon be a reality.

Electronic trade documents, at least in the form of ‘e-bills’, have been in use for almost two decades due to their undisputed benefits and efficiency. However, they remain, as the Law Commission puts it, “workarounds” to the problem of intangible, digital documents not being capable of possession under English law. This is primarily because electronic documents are created under multi-party contracts between a closed group of parties engaged in a particular trade that agrees to recognise them as having the same qualities as a paper document.

What the Law Commission’s proposals seek to address is the “possession problem”, a timely example of English law keeping up with technological solutions (including blockchain) to give electronic trade documents the same legal function as their paper equivalents.

What does the new law say?

Continue Reading Possession as we (don’t) know it!

Singapore will soon be implementing the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976 (as amended in 2012 and effective from 2015), following the passing of the Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill.

With the passing of the Bill, Singapore’s limitation of liability regime for maritime claims will be aligned

The Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill was read in the Singapore Parliament for the first time on 19 November 2018.

The Bill proposes to make a number of significant amendments to Singapore’s merchant shipping legislation. These include:

  1. enacting the International Convention on Salvage 1989 as part of Singapore law; and
  2. adopting the 1996 Protocol to amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976.

The Bill is expected to be debated in parliament over the coming weeks. A further update will follow if the Bill is passed.

Continue Reading Significant amendments in the pipeline to Singapore’s Merchant Shipping Act

In a survey conducted by Reed Smith in the first half of 2018, industry participants predicted that big data analytics will be one of the most significant drivers of change in the shipping industry over the next five years. In addition, for the same five-year period, the survey revealed that the shipping industry considers the development of automated processes and functions on board vessels to be the biggest driver of efficiency in shipping.

The collection, analysis and management of huge volumes of unstructured data (i.e., big data), such as data on voyage performance, ship structure, machinery, fuel consumption, traffic, cargo and the weather, are expected to provide valuable insights into the operation of ships, and uncover hidden patterns as well as market trends. The analysis of big data will also allow the prediction of likely outcomes in certain voyages. In addition, it is likely to reduce costs, as the industry will be able to identify more efficient ways of doing business; it will allow decisions to be made more quickly; and it will make shipping safer by reducing risks.
Continue Reading Big data analytics and autonomous vessels – when will legislation catch up?

The British Chamber of Shipping has published guidelines to the UK Bribery Act 2010 (the “Act”), which came into force on 1 July 2011. The purpose of the guidelines is stated as being “to provide general background and highlight points to be taken into account when considering issues raised by the Bribery Act”.

The guidance