International Commercial Terms

The Incoterms or International Commercial Terms are a series of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) relating to international commercial law. They are widely used in international commercial transactions or procurement processes and their use is encouraged by trade councils, courts and international lawyers. A series of three-letter trade terms related to common contractual sales practices, the Incoterms rules are intended primarily to clearly communicate the tasks, costs, and risks associated with the global or international transportation and delivery of goods. The Incoterms rules are accepted by governments, legal authorities, and practitioners worldwide for the interpretation of most commonly used terms in international trade. They are intended to reduce or remove altogether uncertainties arising from the differing interpretations of the rules in different countries. As such they are regularly incorporated into sales contracts worldwide.

There are certain terms that have special meaning within Incoterms, and some of the more important ones are defined below

EXW – Ex Works (named place of delivery)

 

 

EXW means that a buyer incurs the risks of bringing the goods to their final destination. Either the seller does not load the goods on collecting vehicles and does not clear them for export, or if the seller does load the goods, they do so at buyer's risk and cost. If the parties agree that the seller should be responsible for the loading of the goods on departure and to bear the risk and all costs of such loading, this must be made clear by adding explicit wording to this effect in the contract of sale.

The seller makes the goods available at their premises, or at another named place. This term places the maximum obligation on the buyer and minimum obligations on the seller. The Ex Works term is often used while making an initial quotation for the sale of goods without any costs included.

There is no obligation for the seller to make a contract of carriage, but there is also no obligation for the buyer to arrange one either - the buyer may sell the goods on to their own customer for collection from the original seller's warehouse. However, in common practice the buyer arranges the collection of the freight from the designated location, and is responsible for clearing the goods through Customs. The buyer is also responsible for completing all the export documentation, although the seller does have an obligation to obtain information and documents at the buyer's request and cost.

These documentary requirements may result in two principal issues. Firstly, the stipulation for the buyer to complete the export declaration can be an issue in certain jurisdictions (not least the European Union) where the customs regulations require the declarant to be either an individual or corporation resident within the jurisdiction. If the buyer is based outside of the customs jurisdiction, they will be unable to clear the goods for export, meaning that the goods may be declared in the name of the seller by the buyer, even though the export formalities are the buyer's responsibility under the EXW term.

Secondly, most jurisdictions require companies to provide proof of export for tax purposes. In an EXW shipment, the buyer is under no obligation to provide such proof to the seller, or indeed to even export the goods. In a customs jurisdiction such as the European Union, this would leave the seller liable to a sales tax bill as if the goods were sold to a domestic customer. It is therefore of utmost importance that these matters are discussed with the buyer before the contract is agreed. It may well be that another Incoterm, such as FCA seller’s premises, may be more suitable, since this puts the onus for declaring the goods for export onto the seller, which provides for more control over the export process.

FOB – Free on Board

Under FOB terms the seller bears all costs and risks up to the point the goods are loaded on board the vessel. The seller's responsibility does not end at that point unless the goods are "appropriated to the contract" that is, they are "clearly set aside or otherwise identified as the contract goods". Therefore, FOB contract requires a seller to deliver goods on board a vessel that is to be designated by the buyer in a manner customary at the particular port. In this case, the seller must also arrange for export clearance.

FAS – Free Alongside Ship

The seller delivers when the goods are placed alongside the buyer's vessel at the named port of shipment. This means that the buyer has to bear all costs and risks of loss of or damage to the goods from that moment. The FAS term requires the seller to clear the goods for export, which is a reversal from previous Incoterms versions that required the buyer to arrange for export clearance. However, if the parties wish the buyer to clear the goods for export, this should be made clear by adding explicit wording to this effect in the contract of sale. This term should be used only for non-containerized sea freight and inland waterway transport.

FCA – Free Carrier (named place of delivery)

The seller delivers the goods, cleared for export, at a named place (possibly including the seller's own premises). The goods can be delivered to a carrier nominated by the buyer, or to another party nominated by the buyer. In many respects this Incoterm has replaced FOB in modern usage, although the critical point at which the risk passes moves from loading aboard the vessel to the named place. The chosen place of delivery affects the obligations of loading and unloading the goods at that place. If delivery occurs at the seller's premises, or at any other location that is under the seller's control, the seller is responsible for loading the goods on to the buyer's carrier. However, if delivery occurs at any other place, the seller is deemed to have delivered the goods once their transport has arrived at the named place; the buyer is responsible for both unloading the goods and loading them onto their own carrier.

CFR – Cost and Freight

The seller pays for the carriage of the goods up to the named port of destination. Risk transfers to buyer when the goods have been loaded on board the ship in the country of Export. The seller is responsible for origin costs including export clearance and freight costs for carriage to the named port. The shipper is not responsible for delivery to the final destination from the port (generally the buyer's facilities), or for buying insurance. If the buyer requires the seller to obtain insurance, the Incoterm CIF should be considered. CFR should only be used for non-containerized sea freight and inland waterway transport; for all other modes of transport it should be replaced with CPT.

CIF – Cost, Insurance & Freight

CIF obligates the seller to arrange, pay for and complete the goods’ delivery to the port agreed to by the parties and to load the goods aboard the ship arranged by the buyer. Additionally, the seller is required to insure the goods against loss or damage during the process, through the loading of the vessel.

CPT – Carriage Paid To

CPT replaces the C&F (cost and freight) and CFR terms for all shipping modes outside of non-containerized sea freight. The seller pays for the carriage of the goods up to the named place of destination. However, the goods are considered to be delivered when the goods have been handed over to the first or main carrier, so that the risk transfers to buyer upon handing goods over to that carrier at the place of shipment in the country of Export. The seller is responsible for origin costs including export clearance and freight costs for carriage to the named place of destination (either the final destination such as the buyer's facilities or a port of destination. This has to be agreed to by seller and buyer, however). If the buyer requires the seller to obtain insurance, the Incoterm CIP should be considered instead.

CIP – Carriage and Insurance Paid to

This term is broadly similar to the above CPT term, with the exception that the seller is required to obtain insurance for the goods while in transit. CIP requires the seller to insure the goods for 110% of the contract value under Institute Cargo Clauses (A) of the Institute of London Underwriters (which is a change from Incoterms 2010 where the minimum was Institute Cargo Clauses (C)), or any similar set of clauses, unless specifically agreed by both parties. The policy should be in the same currency as the contract, and should allow the buyer, the seller, and anyone else with an insurable interest in the goods to be able to make a claim. CIP can be used for all modes of transport, whereas the Incoterm CIF should only be used for non-containerized sea-freight

D: Delivering goods at destination

Includes terms whereby the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the agreed location at the destination and seller can pay for most of the delivery charges to the destination country.