INCOTERMS. This is the current edition of thirteen sets of trade terms which were originally meant for use in international commerce. When goods are bought or sold internationally, arrangements must be made for, their transport.
In the contract of sale, the buyer and seller must decide who will arrange and pay for the transport and assume the risks for loss or damage. Many combinations are possible but if the contract of sale incorporates INCOTERMS, the responsibilities and rights of the buyer and seller become quite clear. They help to avoid misunderstandings between buyers and sellers in international commerce.
The first INCOTERMS-Uniform Rules for the Interpretation of Trade Terms-were published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in 1936.
Modem trade practices and the development of transportation techniques require an adaptation of trade terms to serve the needs of modern commerce. This is particularly true for unitisation in containers or otherwise and also for multimodalism and electronic data interchange (EDI). The ICC has kept in step with the changes and has produced trade terms, which have become tried and tested in the market and in the courts. Amendments and additions have been made to INCOTERMS in 1953, 1967, 1976 and 1980, before the INCOTERMS 1990 was published.
Owing to the doctrine of “freedom of contract”, the parties to a contract of sale are free to decide how functions, costs and risks should be distributed between themselves. Therefore they can incorporate the internationally accepted INCOTERMS or they can insert trade terms into their contracts of sale which may not clarify the actual duties and functions and the point in time when these obligations are fulfilled. This can lead to considerable, expensive litigation.
Traditionally, trade terms were used only to determine the division of costs for certain stages in the transit between the parties. Under INCOTERMS this is extended further. The main purpose of INCOTERMS is to
“… provide a set of international rules for the interpretation of the most commonly used trade terms in foreign trade. Thus, the uncertainties of different interpretations of such terms in different countries can be avoided or at least reduced to a considerable degree. Frequently parties to a contract are unaware of the different trading practices in their respective countries. This can give rise to misunderstandings, disputes and litigation with all the waste of time and money that this entails …“ (From “INCOTERMS”, published by The International Chamber of Commerce, Paris.)
Merchants should therefore specify in their contracts of sale that the contracts will be ….. subject to INCOTERMS”.
Currently there are 13 INCOTERMS. They vary from EXW, which represents the minimum cost for the seller to DDP, which causes maximum cost for the seller. Initially these are identified by abbreviations in three letters. These abbreviations make it simple for quick- reference to the appropriate trade term in documentary credits, contracts of sale and communications, especially when EDT is used. The references are internationally standard and have been agreed upon by the ICC and the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations.
In the section below, the abbreviations and their definitions will be followed by a brief explanation of the duties of the seller and the buyer. The INCOTERMS will be discussed in an order that ranges from minimum obligations for the seller to minimum obligations for the buyer.
EXW—Ex Works. “Ex Works” means that the seller’s only responsibility is to make the goods available at his premises (i.e., works or factory). The buyer bears the full cost and risk involved in bringing the goods from there to the desired destination. This term thus represents the minimum obligation for the seller. EXW is related to the departure of the goods from the premises of the seller. This INCOTERM is suitable for any mode of transport.
FCA—free carrier. This term has been designed to meet the requirements of modern transport, particularly such “intermodal” transport as container or ro/ro traffic by trailers and ferries. It is based on the same main principles as FOB except that the seller fulfills his obligations when he delivers the goods into the custody of the carriers at the named point. If no precise point can be mentioned at the time of the contract of sale, the parties should refer to the place or range where the carrier should take the goods into his charge. The risk of cargo loss or damage is transferred from seller to buyer at that time and not at the ship’s rail. “Carrier” means any person by whom or in whose name a contract of carriage by road, rail, air, sea or a combination of modes has been made. When the seller has to furnish a document, he duly fulfils this obligation by presenting such a document issued by the person defined as a earner”. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is unpaid. The term is suitable for any mode of transport, including multimodal transport, and is also relevant to unimodal transport where the transport is either by air or by rail.
FAS—free alongside ship. Under this term the seller’s obligations are fulfilled when the goods have been placed alongside the ship. This means that the buyer has to bear all costs and risk of loss or damage to the goods from that moment. The buyer contracts with the sea carrier for the carnage of the goods to the destination and pays the freight. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is unpaid. The term is very suitable for transport by sea and inland waterway, e.g., by barges.
FOB—free on board. The seller delivers the goods on board the vessel free of cost to the buyer at a port of shipment named in the sales contract. The contract of sale will specify the place of delivery as, for example, “FOB Tokyo”. FOB contracts are closely connected with bills of lading (see Chapter 3). There may be a variety of FOB terms. For example, the “classic FOB” contract was originally discussed in Wimble v. Rosenberg, 1913, and extensions were described in Pyrene v. Scindia Navigation, 1954. In the classic type the buyer nominates the vessel, the seller places the goods on board and obtains bills of lading in terms usual in the trade. In the classic type of FOB contract the seller is the shipper. The seller is a party to the contract of carriage until the bills of lading are made out in the buyer’s name. This type will be used where the vessel will be specialised, e.g., a tanker for oil, or where political pressures cause the buyer to use vessels flagged in the buyer’s country.
Another type is were the seller makes the necessary arrangements for carriage, takes the bills of lading in his own name and transfers these to the buyer against payment. This is a common variety.
A third type of FOB contract comes into existence when the buyer engages his own freight forwarding agent at the port of loading to book the space and obtain the bills of lading. This method may be used where freight has to be paid in advance. In this situation, the seller merely places the goods on board, obtains a mate’s receipt and delivers this to the forwarding agent to enable the latter to obtain a bill of lading.
In Pytene v. Scindia, the shipper was the buyer, who made the contract of carriage. The buyer was not the charterer of the vessel. The cargo was dropped and damaged during loading because of defective cargo lifting equipment. The goods had not passed the ship’s rail. Therefore they were not “placed on board the vessel”. The seller was still the owner of the cargo. However, because the buyer had made the contract of carriage with the shipowner, the seller could not bring an action against the shipowner for a breach of contract. Therefore, the seller brought an action for the tort of negligence. The shipowner wished to use a clause in the contract of carriage limiting his liability according to the Hague Rules. The judge in the case decided that the Hague Rules applied to “loading” and this operation covered the activity from the time the cargo was placed on the vessel’s “tackle”, or cargo hook, for lifting. Therefore, because the cargo was attached to the vessel’s cargo tackle, it was on board. He held also that the seller was party to an implied contract with the carrier. Therefore the seller was bound by the limitation of liability provision in the contract of carriage.
The definition of “on board” led to FOB and “delivery on board” being considered to relate to the moment the cargo is placed on the ship’s cargo lifting devices. If the cargo is being lifted by shore cargo-handling equipment, FOB may relate to the moment it actually crosses the ship’s rail. For oil or other liquid cargoes coming on board by pipeline, the delivery occurs when the cargo passes the ship’s loading valve manifold.
This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is unpaid by the seller. It is particularly suitable for transport by sea and inland waterway.
CFR—cost and freight. The word “cost” only signifies the price for the goods themselves and is quite unnecessary. The important keyword is “freight”. The term is sometimes abbreviated to “C & F” or, “CNF”, where the “N” takes the place of “and”. The term is used with the name of the port of destination, e.g., “CNF Hamburg”. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is paid, usually by the seller. It is appropriate for transport by sea and inland waterway.
CIF—cost insurance and freight. This is perhaps the most usual and important term used in sales contracts involving carriage by sea. This term is basically the same as C & F, but with the addition that the seller has to procure insurance against the risk of loss or damage to the goods during the carriage. The seller contracts with the insurer and pays the insurance premiums. These, then, are included in the price for the goods. The original contract of sale in international trade was probably FAS or FOB where the buyer would have chartered a vessel and called at the ports of shipment taking the goods into his care. The buyer would have been the shipper. In the late 19th century the CIF transaction developed mainly because of the development of good communication links and banking services. In modern international trade, this is by far the most common form of term of trade in a contract of sale. Because the essence of the system is that the system of documentary credits is used through banks, the CIF term also leads to the potential of maritime and documentary fraud because the banks are paying for documents, not for the physical goods. (See, e.g., Fraud and bills of lading in Chapter 3.) This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is paid by the seller and it is suitable for transport by sea and inland waterway.
CPT—carriage paid to … (the named place of destination). This means that the seller pays the freight for the carriage of goods to the named destination. It is suitable for any mode of transport, in particular for multimodal transport.
CIP—carriage and insurance paid to … (named destination). The use of this term means that the seller has to ship the goods and procure the insurance against the buyer’s risk of loss or damage during carriage. It is appropriate for transport by any mode including multimodal transport. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is paid, usually by the seller.
DAF—delivered at frontier. This INCOTERM means that the seller’s obligations are fulfilled when the goods have arrived at the frontier—but before “the customs border” of the country named in the sales contract.
The term is primarily intended to be used when goods are to be carried by rail or road. It is appropriate for transport by any mode including multimodal transport. (In practice it is seldom used when the goods travel by air or by sea.) This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the main carriage is paid, usually by the seller.
DES—delivered ex ship … (named port of destination). This means that the seller makes the goods available to the buyer in the ship at the destination named in the sales contract. The seller has to bear the full cost and risk involved in bringing the goods there. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the seller is responsible for all costs and risks until arrival. It is appropriate for transport by sea or inland waterway.
DEQ—delivered ex quay … (named port of destination). This INCOTERM means that the seller makes the goods available to the buyer on the quay (wharf) at the destination named in the sales contract. As the seller has to bear the full cost and risk involved in bringing the goods there, the sale “ex quay” implies an arrival contract. It is appropriate for transport by sea and inland waterway.
DDU—delivered duty unpaid … (named place of destination). “Delivered duty unpaid” means that the seller fulfills his obligation to deliver when the goods have been made available at the named place in the country of importation. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the seller is responsible for all costs and risks until arrival. It is appropriate for transport by multimodal transport and also unimodal transport.
DDP—delivered duty paid. While the term “ex works” indicates the seller’s minimum obligation, the term ‘‘delivered duty paid’’ when followed by words naming the buyer’s premises denotes the other extreme-the seller’s maximum obligation. The term “Delivered Duty Paid” may be used irrespective of the type of transport involved. This INCOTERM can be classified in a group where the seller is responsible for all costs and risks until arrival.
It may be worth noting that in modern. multimodal transport, “door-to-door services” may be provided by carriers, be they traditional ocean carriers or “NVOCs”. The abbreviation, DDP, may be confused with “door-to-door” service. This should be avoided.