Lorraine Université d'Excellence (LUE)

LUE - The Use of Blockchain Technologies in Carriage of Goods by Sea : A Legal Analysis of Electronic Transferable Records

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Institution Université de Lorraine


Scientific domain Droit privé et sciences criminelles (SJPEG)

Laboratory Institut François GENY

PhD supervisor Olivier CACHARD   

PhD funding

du 01-11-2022 au 31-10-2025 Origine des fonds:Lorraine Université d'Excellence
Employeur:Université de Lorraine

Concours pour un contrat doctoral


Beginning of the PhD on November 1st, 2022

Application until (included) (à 23h59) September 30th, 2022

LUE - The Use of Blockchain Technologies in Carriage of Goods by Sea : A Legal Analysis of Electronic Transferable Records


Transportation Law, Commercial Law, Documentary Credit, Bill of Lading, Document of Title, Negociability

Profile and skills required

A solid basis of expertise in required both in Continental Law, especially in Commercial Law and Shipping lw , and in Common Law, preferably validated by a LLM degree in a Common Law Country.

A strong interest in technological issues and ability to understand and investigate the various aspects of the blockchain.

Written English, level C1, according to the French rating system

After examination of the applications (deadline Friday, September 30, 2022 at 10:00 am), a selection of candidates will be made for the auditions the Friday, October 7, 2022, beginning in the morning, in Nancy.

How to apply:

To apply, you will have to submit online on ADUM, before Friday, September 30, 2022 at 10:00 am, in ONE FILE the documents indicated below (above 'apply to this offer') :

- Free style cover letter explaining the interest for the thesis and the professional project (1-2 pages),
- Curriculum Vitae,
- Letter explaining how the candidate intends to treat the subject with additional bibliography (10 pages maximum),
- Transcripts of grades from Master 1 and Master 2 and certificate of provisional or final success of Master 2,
- Professional or research Master's thesis (final or provisional version)
- Dated and signed application form (pre-filled document from ADUM, administrative document)

Applicants' attention is drawn to the need to provide all the information requested, otherwise their application will be inadmissible, and to check for themselves the absence of any omission or material error in their application.

Candidates wishing more information can contact Professor Olivier CACHARD : olivier.cachard@univ-lorraine.fr

Gross monthly salary : 1 975€

Level of required French: Expert: You can use the language uninhibitedly and the ease by arguing of complex subjects.

Level of required English: Advanced: You can speak the language in a more complex, spontaneous way and on varied subjects.

Project description

The carriage of goods by sea is at the center of a network of related contracts : a contract of sale of goods, a contract of carriage that is concluded between the seller/shipper or the buyer/consignee and the maritime company, a contract of cargo insurance and a payment secured through documentary credit (payment against documents) resulting from a contract with one or two international banks. At the center of this network of contracts stands the contract of carriage, the instrument of which has been, for centuries, a paper document named “Bill of Lading”. This “Bill of Lading” is not just like any other contract : it is a “document of title” that is edited in three originals, incorporating legal title over the goods that are carried. To put it simply, it is equivalent to hold the goods in one’s hands or to hold one original of the “Bill of Lading”, because the Bill of Lading embeds the rights over the goods. During the journey of the goods at sea, the cargo is more than frequently resold several times in back-to-back contracts, which means that there is a succession of owners, the last owner being the only one to be entitled to claim delivery at the port of arrival. This requires a secured transfer of documents and transfer of rights, between the initial parties and the transferees.
So far, the integrity of the document of title was verified through the comparison of original paper documents. The problem was that paradoxically, the circulation of paper was slower than the circulation of cargoes. As a result, problems occurred upon arrival of the goods, namely fraudulent schemes. From the origins of the rise of computer sciences, maritime companies have tried to develop functional equivalents of Bills of Lading, starting from the BOLERO project in the 1990 ‘s. These projects, however, faced an important limit : the trade of goods could only be developed in a closed environment between parties belonging to the same technological platform. It is important to underline that on the spot market of goods and commodities, transactions are frequently carried out between parties that have not regular business relations. As a result, a functional equivalent of the open market is currently investigated by maritime companies and banks. Several blockchain technologies are under scrutiny. This raises several legal issues of paramount importance for international trade.
The proposed PhD subject thus addresses a very specific legal concept, the concept of transferability. This goes further than the usual questions of digitalization around originality, integrity and the law of evidence (questions of proof). So as to be transferable, a commercial document shall be unique, not only an original. The test of uniqueness is established to prevent the circulation of multiple documents or instruments relating to the same performance of the contract. If the electronic record is indeed truly transferable, i.e. unique, there shall be no fraudulent scheme affecting neither the delivery of the goods nor the payment of it.
So as to carve the notion and the implications of transferability in a blockchain environment, the PhD candidate will be fortunate enough no to start from scratch. A Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records has been adopted by the United Nations in 2017. However, it has not been seriously considered by French academics, except one of the promoters of the PhD topic. But if this model law enacts some useful principles (Technological neutrality, functional approach), the “details” have neither been considered in French Legislation, nor in major Civil Law countries. Among these so called “details”, stands the forgotten question of the civil liability of the operators of the digital infrastructure.
Going beyond the publicity around distributed ledger systems and open blockchain (publicity used to raise funds of business angels), the candidate will have to benchmark the different competing blockchain infrastructures from a legal point of view, to make out which fits best the purposes and functions of transferability.


O. Cachard, 'UNCITRAL model law on electronic transferable records
The missing link towards e-shipping?' in Disruptive Technologies, Climate Change and Shipping, 1st Edition, First Published 2022, Imprint Informa Law from Routledge

Mark L. Shope, The Bill of Lading on the Blockchain: An Analysis of its Compatibility with International Rules on Commercial Transactions, 22 MINN. J.L. SCI. & TECH. 163 (2021).

Mark L. Shope,
The Bill of Lading on the Blockchain: An Analysis of its Compatibility with International
Rules on Commercial Transactions, 22 MINN. J.L. SCI. & TECH. 163 (2021).
Available at: https://scholarship.law.umn.e

Job details

LUE - The Use of Blockchain Technologies in Carriage of Goods by Sea : A Legal Analysis of Electronic Transferable Records
34 Cours Léopold Nancy, France
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