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What is the importance of a Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC)?

Standby Letters of Credit (SBLCs) are crucial in LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) transactions due to several reasons:

1. Risk Mitigation: LNG transactions often involve high values and high risk, given the complexity of the supply chain. An SBLC provides a guarantee of payment to the seller even if the buyer defaults, thereby reducing the payment risk.

2. Trade Facilitation: Since LNG transactions often involve parties from different countries, an SBLC can help bridge the gap in regulations, customs, and business practices, making international trade smoother. The SBLC, generally issued by an internationally recognized bank, provides a sense of security to the parties involved.

3. Credit Enhancement: For buyers who may not have an established relationship with the seller or a strong credit profile, an SBLC can enhance their creditworthiness in the eyes of the seller, making it possible to engage in the transaction.

4. Payment Assurance: Given that LNG transactions often involve a time lag between the shipment of the LNG and the payment, an SBLC assures the seller of payment when due.

5. Contractual Requirement: In many cases, the use of an SBLC or other forms of financial guarantees may be a contractual requirement in LNG transactions. The use of an SBLC can be a deal-clincher in such situations.

In short, the use of an SBLC in LNG transactions can enhance trust, reduce risk, and facilitate smoother transactions between parties.

Here are the steps to obtain a SBLC:

1. Agreement between Parties: The two parties involved in a transaction agree on the terms of the transaction, including the use of a SBLC as a payment guarantee.

2. Application: The buyer (applicant) then applies for the SBLC from their bank. This includes providing details about the transaction, the amount of the SBLC, the party to whom the SBLC will be issued (the beneficiary), and the conditions under which the SBLC will be paid out.

3. Review by Bank: The bank reviews the application, assesses the buyer's creditworthiness and their ability to repay the bank if the SBLC is drawn upon. This may involve reviewing the buyer's credit history, financial statements, and the nature of the transaction.

4. Approval and Issuance: If the bank approves the application, it will issue the SBLC in favor of the beneficiary and send it to the beneficiary's bank, usually via SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network.

5. Confirmation by Beneficiary's Bank: The beneficiary's bank confirms the receipt of the SBLC. Depending on the agreement, the beneficiary's bank may also confirm the SBLC which means that they also undertake to pay the beneficiary if the conditions of the SBLC are met.

6. Transaction Continues: With the SBLC in place, the buyer and seller can proceed with their transaction, with the seller assured that they will be paid even if the buyer fails to fulfill the contractual obligations.

Please note that the bank charges a fee for this service which is usually a percentage of the SBLC amount. This can vary based on the applicant's creditworthiness, the perceived risk of the transaction, and the bank's standard fees.


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