Language is one of the most complex and important tools of International Trade. As in any complex and sophisticated business, small changes in wording can have a major impact on all aspects of a business agreement. Word definitions often differ from industry to industry. This is especially true of global trade. Where such fundamental phrases as "delivery" can have a far different meaning in the business than in the rest of the world.
For business terminology to be effective, phrases must mean the same thing throughout the industry. That is why the International Chamber of Commerce created "INCOTERMS" in 1936. INCOTERMS are designed to create a bridge between different members of the industry by acting as a uniform language they can use. Each INCOTERM refers to a type of agreement for the purchase and shipping of goods internationally. There are 13 different terms, each of which helps users deal with different situations involving the movement of goods. For example, the term FCA is often used with shipments involving Ro/Ro or container transport; DDU assists with situations found in intermodal or courier service-based shipments.
INCOTERMS also deal with the documentation required for global trade, specifying which parties are responsible for which documents. Determining the paperwork required to move a shipment is an important job, since requirements vary so much between countries. Two items, however, are standard: the commercial invoice and the packing list. INCOTERMS were created primarily for people inside the world of global trade. Outsiders frequently find them difficult to understand. Seemingly common words such as "responsibility" and "delivery" have different meanings in global trade than they do in other situations.
In global trade, "delivery" refers to the seller fulfilling the obligation of the terms of sale or to completing a contractual obligation. "Delivery" can occur while the merchandise is on a vessel on the high seas and the parties involved are thousands of miles from the goods. In the end, however, the terms wind up boiling down to a few basic specifics:
Costs - who is responsible for the expenses involved in a shipment at a given point in the shipment's journey?
Control - who owns tile goods at a given point in the journey?
Liability - who is responsible for paying damage to goods at a given point in a shipment's transit?
It is essential for shippers to know the exact status of their shipments in terms of ownership and responsibility. It is also vital for sellers & buyers to arrange insurance on their goods while the goods are in their "legal" possession. Lack of insurance can result in wasted time, lawsuits, and broken relationships. United Shipping members will gladly assist shippers and consignees (Buyers and Sellers) in dealing with insurance for the global trade environment.
INCOTERMS can thus have a direct financial impact on a company's business. What is important is not the acronyms, but the business results. Often companies like to be in control of their freight. That being the case, sellers of goods might choose to sell CIF, which gives them a good grasp of shipments moving out of their country, and buyers may prefer to purchase FOB, which gives them a tighter hold on goods moving into their country.
In this glossary, we'll tell you what terms such as CIF and FOB mean and their impact on the trade process. In addition, since we realize that most international buyers and sellers do not handle goods themselves, but work through customs brokers and freight forwarders, we'll discuss how both fit into the terms under discussion.
INCOTERMS are most frequently listed by category. Terms beginning with F refer to shipments where the primary cost of shipping is not paid for by the seller. Terms beginning with C deal with shipments where the seller pays for shipping. E-terms occur when a seller's responsibilities are fulfilled when goods are ready to depart from their facilities. D terms cover shipments where the shipper/seller's responsibility ends when the goods arrive at some specific point. Because shipments are moving into a country, D terms usually involve the services of a customs broker and a freight forwarder. In addition, D terms also deal with the pier or docking charges found at virtually all ports and determining who is responsible for each charge.
Recently the ICC changed basic aspects of the definitions of a number of INCOTERMS, buyers and sellers should be aware of this. Below are updated INCOTERMS 2010.
Rules for Any Mode(s) of Transport
The seven rules defined by INCOTERMS 2010 for any mode(s) of transportation are:
EXW – Ex Works (named place of delivery)
The seller makes the goods available at its premises. This term places the maximum obligation on the buyer and minimum obligations on the seller. The Ex Works term is often used when making an initial quotation for the sale of goods without any costs included. EXW means that a seller has the goods ready for collection at his premises (works, factory, warehouse, plant) on the date agreed upon. The buyer pays all transportation costs and also bears the risks for bringing the goods to their final destination. The seller doesn't load the goods on collecting vehicles and doesn't clear them for export. If the seller does load the good, he does so at buyer's risk and cost. If parties wish seller to 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.
FCA – Free Carrier (named place of delivery)
The seller hands over the goods, cleared for export, into the disposal of the first carrier (named by the buyer) at the named place. The seller pays for carriage to the named point of delivery, and risk passes when the goods are handed over to the first carrier.
CPT - Carriage Paid To (named place of destination)
The seller pays for carriage. Risk transfers to buyer upon handing goods over to the first carrier.
CIP – Carriage and Insurance Paid to (named place of destination)
The containerized transport/multimodal equivalent of CIF. Seller pays for carriage and insurance to the named destination point, but risk passes when the goods are handed over to the first carrier.
DAT – Delivered at Terminal (named terminal at port or place of destination)
Seller pays for carriage to the terminal, except for costs related to import clearance, and assumes all risks up to the point that the goods are unloaded at the terminal.
DAP – Delivered at Place (named place of destination)
Seller pays for carriage to the named place, except for costs related to import clearance, and assumes all risks prior to the point that the goods are ready for unloading by the buyer.
DDP – Delivered Duty Paid (named place of destination)
Seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the named place in the country of the buyer, and pays all costs in bringing the goods to the destination including import duties and taxes. This term places the maximum obligations on the seller and minimum obligations on the buyer.
Rules for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport
The four rules defined by Incoterms 2010 for international trade where transportation is entirely conducted by water are:
FAS – Free Alongside Ship (named port of shipment)
The seller must place the goods alongside the ship at the named port. The seller must clear the goods for export. Suitable only for maritime transport but NOT for multimodal sea transport in containers (see Incoterms 2010, ICC publication 715). This term is typically used for heavy-lift or bulk cargo.
FOB – Free on Board (named port of shipment)
The seller must load the goods on board the vessel nominated by the buyer. Cost and risk are divided when the goods are actually on board of the vessel (this rule is new!). The seller must clear the goods for export. The term is applicable for maritime and inland waterway transport only but NOT for multimodal sea transport in containers (see Incoterms 2010, ICC publication 715). The buyer must instruct the seller the details of the vessel and the port where the goods are to be loaded, and there is no reference to, or provision for, the use of a carrier or forwarder. This term has been greatly misused over the last three decades ever since Incoterms 1980 explained that FCA should be used for container shipments.
CFR – Cost and Freight (named port of destination)
Seller must pay the costs and freight to bring the goods to the port of destination. However, risk is transferred to the buyer once the goods are loaded on the vessel (this rule is new!). Maritime transport only and Insurance for the goods is NOT included. This term is formerly known as CNF (C&F).
CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight (named port of destination)
Exactly the same as CFR except that the seller must in addition procure and pay for the insurance. Maritime transport only.