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IMB launches initiative to curb bills of lading fraud

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has launched a new initiative aimed at curbing bills of lading (B/L) fraud carried out by non-vessel owning common carriers (NVOCCs).

The IMB NVOCC Register provides a business solution to a business problem affecting parties involved in international shipping and trade.

B/Ls are crucial documents relied upon by many stakeholders in the trading chain including banks, shipping companies, carriers and charterers.

IMB – which conducts B/L checks for its members – says while the vast majority of NVOCCs issue B/Ls correctly, there is a small minority that do not.

This could lead to fraudulent practices, and banks that unwittingly process false B/Ls could discover that either there are no cargoes underlying the documents or that the shipments may be misrepresented.

IMB’s says that up to 95 percent of the false B/Ls identified by the Bureau are issued by NVOCCs.

An IMB spokesman said, “Incidents of ship owners/carriers or their agents issuing false B/Ls are uncommon because they take a big risk in doing so and open themselves to legal action.

“However, unlike the carriers or their agents, the majority of NVOCCs do not have any assets which are at risk in these transactions except for their reputations.

“The NVOCC Register therefore recognises participating NVOCCs who adhere to a minimum standard of anti-fraud measures in their operations,” the IMB spokesman added.

IMB is inviting NVOCCs to sign up to its NVOCC Register. In doing so they will also have to sign up to a Code of Conduct for the issuance of B/Ls. Failure to comply with the Code of Conduct may result in removal of the NVOCC from the Register in certain circumstances.

The intention is not to exclude defaulting NVOCCs but to help them improve the steps taken to issue bills of lading which is relied upon by a number of other stakeholders.

IMB says an advantage of signing up to the Register is that banks may process the documents of NVOCCs on the Register faster than those that are not.

The IMB NVOCC Register is backed by an online course designed by the IMB and run by the ICC Academy which specialises in trade related online training (https://icc.academy/).

The IMB NVOCC Register was officially launched in Singapore last month, attended by more than 100 representatives from banks, logistics companies and trading firms. A panel discussion and question and answer session was held during the launch, and a video of it can be viewed below:

Source: ICC CCS

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