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The advent of blockchain bills of lading has attracted the attention of both industry participants and maritime scholars. Concerns are growing about the development of blockchain bills of lading and the construction of a future regulatory framework. This article will argue that, rather than relying on reform or implementation of positive law instruments regarding blockchain bills of lading, the other layer of regulation in the shipping industry, which consists of relevant self-regulation instruments, should be considered to provide a basis for filling the regulatory gap between the fast evolution of blockchain bills of lading and the inherent conservatism of maritime law.
Maritime transport is one of the essential industries that drive the world’s economy. Over 90 per cent of the world’s trade is transported by sea, and it is the most cost-effective way to move a large volume of cargo and material around the world.1 At the same time, shipping law can be described as conservative and an area that is known for its notoriously slow response to technological change and shipping practice.2 Cornerstones of the current legal regime governing the carriage of goods by sea can be traced back to the late-nineteenth century or even to late-medieval times.3
Unsurprisingly, technology is often ahead of its time, and legal responses are always lagging.4 In recent years, there have been several digital technologies arising in the maritime sector. For instance, it is said that artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vessel initiatives will significantly reduce human error and maintenance issues, whilst