As a result of Covid-19, the use of e-signatures has become the new normal in legal proceedings. Should electronic signatures be used in in legally binding contacts in the shipping industry?
Indeed interesting question!
I am not an expert on the matter, but I can recall that BIMCO adopted a standard in 2021 about the electronic signature clause to allow parties safely use electronic signatures in their contractual arrangements.
you can check here for details → BIMCO Electronic Signature Clause 2021
I think e-signatures will be the norm for the years to come.
In general, all industries including shipping are moving towards encrypted smart contracts and blockchain technology, which are safer and more efficient compared to the traditional paper protocols.
I think that since electronic B/Ls are issued, and as we know B/Ls are one of the most important documents in trading, e-signature should also be ok provided there are some remedies available for both parties in case of an issue arising of same.