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The way forward: implementing digital consignment notes (e-CMR)

24 Oct 2022 · Prosperity

IRU has brought together regulators and industry leaders to exchange ideas, challenges and examples of implementing and advancing e-CMR solutions.

As countries continue to accede to – and begin implementing – the e-CMR protocol, IRU ran a workshop with government authorities and the private sector to discuss the challenges, opportunities and best practices of advancing e-CMR solutions.

Consignments notes under the UN Convention for the carriage of goods (CMR) are primarily used for commercial transport contract purposes. They are also often used by law enforcement and customs authorities to check goods and consignor/consignee/carrier information in cross-border trade.

The digital version of the CMR consignment note, the e-CMR protocol, has been in place since 2008 and has now been ratified by 32 countries. By eliminating paperwork, e-CMR solutions lower handling costs, eliminate administrative and invoicing delays, and reduce discrepancies at delivery sites.

“In the near future, no trucks should stop at borders”

The two-hour workshop featured succinct presentations from seven external speakers, including by industry leaders, regulators and policy makers.

Konstantinos Alexopoulos, Chief, Transport Facilitation and Economics Section at UNECE, kicked off the workshop with a simple message, “in the near future, no trucks should stop at borders”. 

He went on to add that the operationalisation of e-CMR should follow the provisions of CMR and its e-CMR protocol, meaning that it should be international, sustainable and agreed by all contracting parties. 

Asset Assavbayev, Secretary General of the PS IGC TRACECA, highlighted that several members of the Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia are interested in e-CMR solutions.

Both Konstantinos Alexopoulos and Asset Assavbayev emphasised the importance of testing e-CMR solutions.

Dieter Sellner, Head of Digital Transformation at DB Schenker, highlighted that eliminating paperwork will reduce operation costs. Together with Andreas Nettstrater, CEO of Open Logistics Foundation, they have presented a proposal to create open-source solutions. Andreas Nettstrater also noted the importance of aligning legislators and the private sector.

To further concretise the discussion, Hélène Kerjean, Supply Chain Product Marketing Manager at AKANEA, shared an example of how e-CMR is mobilised in the French market, with an eye on expanding their solution to other markets.

On the other hand, Antonia Ferrari, Key Account Manager at TN Torello, expressed her concern that Italy has yet to ratify the CMR protocol, given the importance of sustainability and digital solutions for the transport sector.

Finally, André Simha, Global Chief Digital & Information Officer of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, underscored that solutions must be interoperable. He also stressed the value of electronic documentation for international trade, and the importance of cyber security and governance.

All speakers agreed that it is necessary and beneficial to develop a global approach to e-CMR – which is technologically neutral, interoperable, harmonised and secure – as quickly as possible.