Singapore … the hallmarks of a “smart nation”

On 1st February this year, the Singapore Parliament took an important step towards shifting the country away from the unnecessary use of paper in carrying out commercial transactions. One such unnecessary use of paper has been in the use of physical bills of lading in maritime trade, as evidence of a contract of carriage and as a receipt for the relevant goods. The step taken by the Singapore Parliament now enables digital international trade instead[1]. In addition to the saving of much cost and time by adopting a paper-free system, the regulatory changes implemented will also bring Singapore into line with the provisions of UNCITRAL, which advocates an internationally uniform legal framework for electronic records.

That said, in view of the fact that many international players in the maritime industry will still continue to use paper records at least for the present, the regulatory changes in Singapore nevertheless permit the conversion of electronic records into physical ones, and physical records into electronic form, as the case requires.

Readers may also be interested to note, that in addition to enabling the digitising of bills of lading, these regulatory changes have also facilitated the digitising of another form of legal document which hitherto has typically been in physical form, namely the lasting power of attorney.

[1] See the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Bill passed by the Singapore Parliament on 1st February 2021.

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