Leveraging E-signatures in International Shipping and Trading Activities

Going paperless has been the new normal. With the onset of the deadly coronavirus, business organizations grappled to move their physical infrastructure to the virtual world, welcoming the new work from home culture. While most of the operations were successfully shifted to the cloud facilitating remote access, a few had to be modified to meet the requirements. 

One of these has been signing documents and sending them to the prospects/clients. Traditionally, documents are physically sent from one place to another which is then signed and sent back to the source. While the corporate sector has managed to revise their document signing process, adopting digital methods for the same, the shipment and logistics industry is still skeptical about the move. 

Before moving to the concept of digital signatures and how they revolutionize international shipping activities, let's give a quick look at what electronic mail signatures are. 

Electronic Signatures: Digitizing the process 

Similar to the physical signatures, the intent behind electronic signatures stays similar and is primarily meant to authenticate or validate a document. It is, by all means, the combination of letters, symbols, or characters used to sign a particular thing. What makes the two forms of a signature different is the format. You may use tools like CocoSign for e-signing.

Where conventional signatures are signed using the pen and paper format, an electronic signature is done electronically over any device. Digital signatures are of different kinds, starting with a hand-held signature on the device screen to an image of the actual signature uploaded to the document. Either be the type, the main aim is to authorize a particular document/paper. 

Electronic Signatures in International Shipping and Trade 

Shipping goods from one region to another involves a lot of paperwork. Starting with the freight bill to the consignment note, the waybill, commercial invoice, cargo insurance papers, and customer agreement among others, international shipping is more about having the right document, signed by the right people. 

While this hasn't been a topic of concern before, it is now when most of the operations are conducted from home and people aren't moving out that we seek an alternative to the above. Electronic Signatures here seems to be the best solution. 

Besides the fact that electronic signatures are a modern-day solution, multiple other benefits suggest the need for eSignatures in the industry. 

Benefits of eSignatures in Shipping and Logistics

A survey by P&S Intelligence suggests that the global market size of electronic signatures would increase by 39% in 2020. This indicates the rising use case of digital signatures across all business verticals. Keeping this as the core, we now highlight the perks of replacing manual signatures with eSignatures. 

1. Reduces operational cost

When shipping goods from source to destination, along with goods, the papers also travel. This adds to the cost of printing documents, shipping them, and also tracking whether or not the same has been received at the other end. 

Shifting all of the paperwork to an online application or software that facilitates document sharing, signing and reporting would cut down the front-end expenses related to the documents. For organizations that ship thousands of products, such a move would help lower their overall costs dramatically, benefiting their business at large. 

2. Enhances Business Productivity

According to a research study, organizations can improve their end-to-end productivity by 88%, shifting paperwork to the digital environment. 

The above could be attributed to the fact that online tools/software for digital signature simplifies the job of creating consignments, signing, and then sharing it with the client. This means that the time spent to do the job is less as compared to what it took when following the traditional method.

Organizations can now focus on other important things apart from document signing as these tools are packed with features that help track the process and stay updated as and when the document is signed by the end-user. 

3. Improved Accuracy

When sending bills or customer agreements physically, errors in the document add to the overhead as the same needs to be resent to the source, modified, and shared with the user again.

On the contrary, digitally shared documents can be modified or edited directly from the portal. When the shipment manager sends a document to the buyer, he/she can highlight the errors or make changes to the clause. The tool sends notifications to the sender notifying him/her about the changes. The same can be fixed at the earliest, making way for faster approval. 

4. Track Documents

Tools that facilitate electronic signatures or the digital ones have a tracking feature that allows the sender to keep tabs on who has signed the document. Based on the above information, a reminder can be sent to users who are yet to approve the document or the bill.

While the paper-pen method of approving documents has no such feature and would require one to manually call and confirm, electronic signature tools have a built-in option keeping the sender informed and updated on all activities.

5. Optimal Security

When documents are shared digitally, the scope of tampering with the data or the paper itself is reduced. The sender of the document can be sure that the information is kept private and under no circumstances would the same be revealed to anyone else apart from the ones authorized. 

To ensure that the person signing the document is the one authorized to do the same, logistic managers enter into video calls to verify the same. Either is the method, security is guaranteed with minimal possibility of losing out on the document. 


Having said all of the above, it is clear that electronic signatures are the future of international shipping and similar operations. There are multiple companies that provide tools to do the same. Depending upon your business requirements, you can select and sign-up for the software solution. Leveraging the power and potential of eSignatures, you can step ahead of the competition and focus on important things such as improving sales, and boosting revenue.

The author writes about innovative digital solutions and their impact on different industries, with a goal to help businesses in utilizing technologies right.