The end-to-end process of a Bill of Lading delivers substantial value when all participants of the eBL flow are on TradeLens and accept electronic bills. In some instances, however, there may be a requirement for physical documents, in these scenarios TradeLens offers a conversion of the eBL to paper, we call this process “switch to paper”.
In this article
What is “switch to paper” and why should you use it?
The “switch to paper” functionality allows you to convert the eBL into an Original Bill of Lading in paper format in case your business partners are not using TradeLens or you are operating in a country that does not allow or accept a digital version of the bill of lading (BL).
You should use the “switch to paper” functionality only when a paper-based original BL is required but an eBL has been issued.
It’s easy to bring your business partners to TradeLens enabling the end-to-end eBL flow. See this article to find out how to connect your eBL counterparties to the platform: How to bring your TradeLens eBL counterparties to the platform
Who can use the “switch to paper” feature and when?
Both Consignors and Consignees can use "switch to paper". In the eBL flow on TradeLens, once the carrier has issued the eBL to the Shipper/Consignor can choose the “switch to paper” option. If the eBL was already transferred to the Buyer/Consignee, they can also choose to “switch to paper” if required by local regulations.
At any point in the eBL flow, the owner/titleholder of the eBL can convert the eBL back to paper. However, this step is irreversible – once the paper format is issued, it cannot be reverted back to a digital format.
How to use the “switch to paper” function?
From the Shipment Manager on the left navigation pane, choose “eBL” to see your active eBLs. Depending on your role in the eBL flow, you can view, transfer, surrender or download all related consignment documents, and you can also see the document icon for a “Switch to Paper”.
You will be asked to confirm the switch and are informed of the Party that will receive the BL – keep in mind that this step is irreversible. The Carrier that receives the BL is notified about the change from an electronic BL to a physical BL.
If the eBL is not yet issued to TradeLens, and you want to switch it to paper, you can simply contact the carrier and request a paper BL before the eBL is issued.
How to physically obtain a paper-based Original Bill of Lading?
There are two options, depending on your status with the carrier, to physically obtain an Original Bill of Landing:
- For web customers (who are enabled for printing): the final BL will become available for download and printing on the carrier website (e.g. Maersk.com)
- For non-web customers (who are not allowed to print): the final BL will be printed by and can be collected from the respective carrier front office in the country you are based
Switching an eBL to a paper bill might lead to additional charges from the carrier for reprinting the bill in a different place in the world other than its original place of issue.