Barge Digital Transformation Project


System Principles:

- Market Integrity
- Security
- Usability
- Data Accuracy
- Cost Effectiveness
- Ownership
- Compliance
- Reliability
- Project Build Efficiency

This system is being developed as an administrative utility for the industry. It is meant to house, develop and distribute the documentation associated with the barge trade.

Training Sessions

Session I | Watch Now
Overview of basic functionality

Session II | Watch Now
Handling rejected barges, reconsignments and busting

Session III | Watch Now
Busting after BOL endorsements, corrections in the system, archive feature


BDT Innovation Preview

Aug. 6, 2020

Re-watch the preview with Brittany Schaefer, NGFDS Chairman, and Alex Goulandris, co-CEO, essDOCS, to see a walk-through of the BDT platform's key functionality and security measures, as well as updates on next steps.

Listen with NGFA:
What's next for the BDT project?

Jul. 8, 2020

Listen to Brittany Schaefer, NGFDS Chairman, share more about the BDT project and the future of NGFDS on NGFA's podcast.

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents will be covered in the project?

In particular, the BDT solution is expected to digitize the approximated 70,000 to 100,000 negotiable barge bills of lading that NGFA members handle each year. As this solution develops and expands, there may be other paper-based documents that could be incorporated.

Will it be available throughout the US or only on specific waterways to start and what kinds of products will it cover?

Initially, the digital solution is designed to address barge bills of lading on southbound traffic for corn, wheat, soybeans, DDGS and soybean meal on the Mississippi River System, but it has the potential to be expanded in the future, including to other regions, such as the Columbia and Snake River System in the Pacific Northwest.

How will the digital system work? 

The solution will be based on a customized version of essDOCS' CargoDocs DocEx platform. Work on the development of this platform has only just begun.

Will this system replace phone applications?

No. Phone applications are still the standard of the trade. This system is meant to handle the back-end administration of the trade.

How long is record retention set for in the system?

12 years.

Will the system allow for downloading or printing copies?


How much does it cost to use the system?

Users are charged $5 per transaction. A transaction is defined as when the bill of lading gets transferred. This is set up to mimic the FedEx cost that users incur in trade today. 

Can multiple people from the same company be logged in at the same time?

Yes. Each user is set up for the company and has a user profile that has specific permissions set by that company's administration.

How long has the work been ongoing for this project?

General discussions involving a broad sector of the industry began after an open meeting in New Orleans in January 2018, when the need and benefits for digitization in the barge trade were widely recognized. Work in earnest involving the member companies and NGFA toward a solution, including scoping of the project and design and development of a prototype, began after a three-day work session in October 2018.

Why were these groups selected?

The tech provider/vendor - essDOCS - was selected from a rigorous search process from a field of strong candidates for multiple reasons, including essDOCS' reputation, experience in the industry, and based on the fact that its proposal stood out as the best fit while being most cost-effective.

Project Timeline

Exploratory Meeting

Feb. 2018

Exploratory Discussions

May - Oct. 2018

Kickoff Meeting 

Oct. 2018

Prototype Kickoff

Dec. 2018

Prototype Development

Dec. 2018 - Apr. 2019

RFI Development/Selection

Mar. - Jul. 2019

RFP Development/Selection

Jul. - Oct. 2019

essDOCS Services Contracting and Scoping

Oct. 2019 - Feb. 2020

essDOCS Development and Testing

Dec. 2019 - present