Frequently Asked Questions

There are various external constraints to the adoption of eBL solutions such as legal and jurisdictional restrictions and hesitance from financial institutions. The Open eBL initiative goes beyond developing a software solution that enables adoption at the technology layer, it creates a horizontal ecosystem of institutional leaders across banking, customs, digital transformation and supply chain to co-create the future of global trade and break down barriers to industry wide digitization.

Open-source standards create a common language in alignment with industry standards, enabling seamless integration across platforms and data exchange between stakeholders and their applications to avoid vendor lock-in and eliminate costs associated with the manual input of data.

The initiative launched in January 2024. The first year will focus on community building, solution development, and preliminary solution testing. We will build upon member contributions to create and extend value via Open eBL, and raise global awareness of the benefits derived by stakeholders and their customers. By year two, we will accelerate commercial value for our members and expect to formalize the initiative as a foundation. The Open eBL solution will then be released to the general public.

We are currently testing the software internally. Member organizations will be able to test their technology on the Open eBL platform beginning July 2024.

Open eBL members will have early access to our products and services based on their membership fee during the estimated 2-year implementation timeframe. As an open-source initiative, non-members will have access once our products and services have been publicly released. Any associated usage fees such as onboarding, verification or transaction fees, will be published upon release.

Members are expected to contribute development capital, commit to deploy Open eBL products and services in the marketplace within the 2 years from initiative start, and to support Open eBL case studies. A two-year investment commitment is therefore required of members to cover initial development and production requirements. For more details on our membership fees visit https://openebl.org/about/

Benefits include active participation in technology development and business model design during the initiative’s first two years (or until the solution is publicly released). Members gain first-mover advantage and can leverage synergies between members to build digital supply chain services and workflows.

Open-source standards enable competition above the standard. Companies compete on value-added functionality or services.

We have three membership models—Co-chair, Contributor, and Supporter--that offer varying degrees of input and oversight. Members at the Co-chair and Contributor levels have influence concerning the technology, roadmap, and business model during first two. They also have access to other members to engage commercially or create independent service alliances. All code contributions to the Open eBL initiative and technical projects shall be made under the Apache License, Version 2.0 unless authorized by the Leadership Council. You can find more on our membership and governance models here.

The two-year investment commitment of members will cover initial development and production requirements. Once the solution is released to the public, any associated fees will be published.

Open eBL IP will be owned by the Center for Global Enterprise (CGE), a non-profit organization and founding member. Any code developed on top of the Open eBL software will belong to the company that developed that intellectual property (IP).

The platform will adhere to open-source standards as well as industry-specific standard established by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) and the ICC, ensuring it aligns with global best practices and interoperability requirements.

The DCSA is developing an industry standard on the data format for eBLs. The Open eBL initiative leverages the DCSA data format to create the technology architecture for executing eBL workflows and transactions. We are not changing the DCSA standard or creating a competing standard. We are adopting the DCSA standard and developing a technology platform on top of the DSCA standard to enable secure and standardized document exchange, adding value to supply chains and lowering associated costs through open-source capabilities.

Open eBL’s architecture is a distributed ledger with enterprise security and privacy that provides:

  • A permissioned network via certificates issued to network participants
  • Secure credential exchange between organizations based on proven Public/Private Key Infrastructure for data integrity and authenticity
  • Immutable protocols for full eBL traceability and accountability
  • Encrypted documents and cryptographic signatures

Although the solution leverages certain characteristics of blockchain technology, it is not a blockchain in the traditional sense. Open eBL will employ some features of blockchain and have blockchain compatibility but will not leverage blockchain or a global ledger to facilitate eBL transactions.

The Open eBL initiative is keen on aligning with industry standards and has therefore initiated participation in the ICC DSI MLETR Reliable Systems pilot assessment program, which aims to provide preliminary assessment of the reliability of systems that facilitate the transfer of electronic transferrable records, under the specifications set out by the Model Law on Electronic Transferrable Records (MLETR) We are also developing our solution in alignment with DCSA standards and will continue to welcome every organization attempting to create eBL standards.

Open eBL’s open source architecture provides organisations the opportunity to leverage their existing third party eBL solutions (e.g., Bolero, WaveBL, IQAX), which may be proprietary solutions, more efficiently. By connecting third-party solutions to the Open eBL platform, organizations can achieve a common data storage and data transmission layer across multiple platforms and address interoperability constraints involved with handling bills of lading and potentially other digital trade documents.

To join the Open eBL network, each customer goes through an initial onboarding process and receives a public and private key. Once the customer has their keys, they'll create a digital ID, called a certificate, using their private key. This certificate is their public identity on the network and is shared with everyone. All important documents and messages sent between customers, including the swapping of keys for secure communication, are signed with this digital ID to ensure authenticity and integrity.

For highly sensitive information, a one-time key is created to unlock the information. This key is then encrypted with the public keys of the people allowed to see the information. Both the key and the information are packaged and sent over the network, ensuring that only authorized viewers can decrypt and access the information while maintaining privacy and security.

Open eBL has gained critical insights from the previous industry attempts such as Tradelens and differs in several ways:

  1. Open eBL offers commercial neutrality by organizing as a non-profit under the Center for Global Enterprise (CGE) and DSCI. TradeLens was a for-profit effort which significantly affected adoption.
  2. Open eBL has a clear open-source strategy and architecture to encourage community-driven innovation, transparency, and cost-effectiveness. It starts small with the digitization of bills of lading and a few stakeholders within freight forwarding, shipping, consignment, defining a roadmap for future expansion into digitization of other trade documents.
  3. Open eBL has a focused standards-based approach, aligning with industry standards such as those offered by the DCSA and the ICC, as well as technical standards such as open-source standards and API standards

You can find more on how Open eBL differs from TradeLens and embraces the learnings from past industry efforts here.