Electronic trade and transport documents and data

As part of the high-profile multi-agency United Nations Development Account project Transport and Trade Connectivity in the Age of Pandemics, UNECE has developed a segment focusing on the harmonization of standards for the digitalization of data and document exchange in multimodal transport and trade. The objective is to use the standards of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), a UNECE subsidiary body, notably the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model, to provide for interoperability and data exchange between documents, modes of transport and sectors. This will allow for seamless exchange of information, for example in digital corridors, and will limit person-to-person contacts in the supply chain. The use of United Nations standards and modern IT tools, provided as international public goods, helps improve the efficiency and safety of international transport and trade in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The segment is producing, step-by-step, a package of standards to be used in the digitalization of key documents accompanying goods transported by various modes: maritime, road, railway, air and inland water transport. If the data sets in these documents are interoperable with the United Nations standards, this will allow for interoperability along transport and supply chains. The objective is not to impose solutions (ready electronic documents) to the various stakeholders, but to provide solutions for interoperability, including the use of such modern technologies as XML and JSON API. Initial pilot implementation cases have started, such as the digitalization of the multimodal Bill of Lading of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) or a pilot test of the concept focusing on the exports of wood products from Belarus to Central Europe, using road, railway, river and sea transportation (a Dnieper – Danube pilot test).

Contact details:

Mr. Mario Apostolov
Regional Adviser
Economic Cooperation and Trade Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

+41 22 917 11 34
[email protected]


Standardized Dataset Aligned to International Standards and UN/CEFACT Reference Data Models and Document Implementation Prototypes for CIM/SMGS set of Documents

This pilot project was initiated in the context of implementing the recommendations of the 2019 and 2020 UNECE “Odessa seminars” to support the development of digital multimodal transport corridors, to increase the harmonization and standardization of data exchange in international transport, trade and logistics, to encourage electronic data exchange and thereby to reduce person-to-person contacts during the COVID-19 crisis and in the post-pandemic recovery, using relevant UN/CEFACT standards.

This included: an analysis of merchandise and information flows along the Black Sea – Baltic Sea corridor as background information for the further development of the project. A set of electronic messages (electronic document equivalents) based on the UN/CEFACT standards and Reference Data Models, using XML and JSON formats, has been developed in collaboration with relevant UN/CEFACT experts and using their guidance on how the UN/CEFACT standards should be applied to develop electronic document-equivalents for CIM/SMGS documents, in particular:

  • Packing List;
  • SMGS Consignment Note;
  • CIM/SMGS Consignment Note (BY);
  • CIM/SMGS Wagon List;
  • Invoice for Customs (in cooperation with the Ukrainian consultant in the project).

A survey and analysis took place on what was necessary to accomplish for a complete conversion of data between maritime, road and railway transport. The focus was on new standards for generic document equivalents, in order to look into possibilities for their pilot implementation under the United Nations Development Account (UNDA) coronavirus (COVID-19) response project “Transport and Trade Connectivity in the  Age of Pandemics”. The consultant worked in the areas of:

  • practical aspects of preparing electronic standards for data exchange and new message structure subsets contextualized to the specific transport modes, using UN/CEFACT standards that would best service digital multimodal corridors and support modern technologies, including XML and JSON;
  • development and implementation of a data model for the Black Sea – Baltic Sea digital corridor, combining the data for key documents accompanying goods, as described above, as identified in the project, and based on the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model.

The main objective was to foster the harmonization of electronic data sharing, using global (UN/CEFACT) standards for transport, trade, and logistics, and to prepare templates for electronic document equivalents based on the UN/CEFACT semantic standards and reference data models.

Belarus report on CIM_SMGS