Mastering Incoterms: Your Comprehensive Guide to Simplifying Shipping Processes

Shipping “Incoterms“ are a series of international commercial terms that help determine the responsibilities and obligations of the seller and the buyer in an international shipment.
The most common shipping incoterms are: FCA, DAP, CPT, CIP, DAT.
INCO terms first appeared in 1936. This is a set of 11 rules to define the scope of responsibility of each party in international transactions.

The table below outlines all 11 INCOTERMS, as well as which modes of transportation they apply to.

What is Incoterms 2022


Incoterms are a set of pre-defined rules published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). They define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers in the international trade of goods, providing a framework that streamlines trade procedures and simplifies communication.

These terms are used in sales contracts to delineate who is responsible for the costs and risks associated with the transportation and delivery of goods. They specify who is responsible for the goods at each point in the shipping process, from the initial dispatch to the final delivery.

Incoterms are indispensable tools for businesses engaged in international trade, as they remove uncertainties arising from differing interpretations of trade laws in different countries. They provide clarity and predictability, ensuring seamless transactions between trading partners.

Importance of understanding Incoterms in shipping

Understanding Incoterms is integral to ensuring effective and efficient shipping processes. They provide a clear outline of the obligations, risks, and costs for both the buyer and seller. This clarity helps prevent disputes and misunderstandings, promoting smooth transactions and fostering strong business relationships.

Knowledge of Incoterms also allows businesses to make informed decisions about shipping processes and costs. By understanding who bears the risk and cost at each stage of the shipping process, businesses can strategise and optimise their logistics operations.

Furthermore, understanding Incoterms can provide a competitive edge in the business arena. Companies that are well-versed in Incoterms can leverage their knowledge to negotiate better terms with their trading partners, potentially reducing costs and mitigating risks.

Key updates in Incoterms 2020 and what to expect in Incoterm 2022

Incoterms are updated periodically to reflect changes in international trade practices. The latest edition, Incoterms 2020, introduced several significant changes aimed at simplifying trade procedures and enhancing clarity. This edition introduced changes to the Free Carrier (FCA) term, which now allows the buyer and seller to agree that the buyer will instruct the carrier to issue an onboard bill of lading to the seller.

Looking ahead, while the specific updates for Incoterm 2022 have yet to be announced, one can expect that they will continue to reflect the evolving landscape of international trade, incorporating changes in technology, regulations, and trade practices.

Understanding these updates is crucial for businesses, as it ensures that they stay abreast of the latest standards in international trade. It allows them to adapt their shipping processes and contracts accordingly, ensuring compliance and optimising their operations.

Understanding the Incoterms chart and types of Incoterms

The Incoterms chart is a useful tool that provides a visual representation of the different Incoterms and their respective responsibilities. It outlines the obligations, costs, and risks associated with each term, providing an easy reference for businesses.

There are 11 types of Incoterms, each represented by a three-letter acronym. These terms are categorised into two groups: terms for any mode of transport (EXW, FCA, CPT, CIP, DAP, DPU, and DDP) and terms for sea and inland waterway transport (FAS, FOB, CFR, and CIF).

Understanding the Incoterms chart and the various types of Incoterms is essential for businesses to select the most appropriate term for their shipping needs. It allows them to identify the term that best aligns with their shipping processes, risk tolerance, and cost considerations.

Simplifying shipping processes with Incoterms

Incoterms can greatly simplify shipping processes by providing a clear and internationally recognised framework for the shipment of goods. They define the roles and responsibilities of the buyer and seller, reducing ambiguities and potential disputes.

Businesses that understand and implement Incoterms effectively can streamline their shipping processes, making them more efficient and cost-effective. They can identify potential risks and costs at each stage of the shipping process, allowing them to plan and strategise accordingly.

Furthermore, Incoterms can facilitate easier communication between trading partners. With a common language, businesses can clearly articulate their responsibilities and expectations, promoting smoother transactions and fostering stronger business relationships.

EXW – Ex Works

EXW is an abbreviation for “Ex Works”. This means that the seller only needs to deliver goods to a transportation carrier or other designated place, which is usually their warehouse or factory, where goods can be collected by UPS, which refers to any postal service where a buyer can collect the goods from the shipping carrier.
This means that the seller does not have an obligation to deliver the goods or make them available at any particular location.

A closer look at collect shipping and its impact on logistics

Collect shipping is a term used when the recipient or consignee of the goods is responsible for the freight charges. This term can significantly impact logistics operations, as it determines who is responsible for the freight costs and when these costs are incurred.

Understanding collect shipping is crucial for businesses, as it allows them to plan and strategise their logistics operations effectively. It enables them to identify potential costs and risks, facilitating effective cost management and risk mitigation.


FCA – Free Carrier (Place of Delivery)
FAS – Free Alongside Ship (Port of Shipment)
FOB – Free On Board (Port of Shipment)

FOB shipping is a term that is used in the shipping industry to indicate that the seller has delivered the goods to the carrier’s freight terminal, but not cleared customs.

The FOB (Free on Board) term means that once you have paid for your goods and they are loaded onto a vessel, you are responsible for them until they are delivered to their destination. The responsibility for clearing customs and paying any duties or taxes falls on you as well.

Fob shipments are not insured by either party when they are in transit. The risk of loss or damage is carried by whoever takes possession of the goods at their destination. This means that if your shipment arrives damaged, you will need to make a claim with your local post office rather than with your shipping company or supplier.

Comprehensive interpretation of CFR freight term

CFR, or Cost and Freight, is an Incoterm that is applicable for sea and inland waterway transport. Under this term, the seller is responsible for arranging and paying for the transportation of goods to the named port of destination. However, the risk of loss or damage to the goods, as well as any additional costs due to events occurring after the goods have been loaded onto the vessel, is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

Understanding the CFR term is crucial for businesses involved in sea and inland waterway transport. It allows them to identify the point at which costs and risks are transferred, facilitating effective risk management and cost planning.


CFR – Cost and Freight (Port of Destination)
CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight (Port of Destination)

CIF is a term for “Cost, Insurance, and Freight.” This is a type of shipping that includes all three of these costs: the cost of the goods, the insurance for the goods, and the freight for delivery.

The acronym CIF can be used to describe any type of shipping that includes all three of these costs.

CPT – Carriage Paid to

“C” terms are for CFR–Cost and Freight. CFR means that the seller agrees to pay to have the goods transported to their destination and that they will be unloaded when they arrive.

DAT – Delivered At Terminal (Terminal at Port or Place of Destination)
DAP – Delivered At Place (Place of Destination)

DAP stands for “Delivered at Place”. This is a term used in shipping. It means that the goods are delivered to the place where they are to be used.

DAP is often used in international trade, where it is common for goods to be delivered from one country to another.

DDP – Delivered Duty Paid (Place of Destination)

DDP is a door-to-door service with one of the fastest delivery times. It takes 2-5 days for the package to arrive at its destination. This service includes customs clearance and door delivery by the freight company. The customer pays for all shipping costs and taxes at the time of purchase so they don’t have to worry about any additional charges when they get their order delivered.

“D” terms are for DAT–Delivered At Terminal, DAP–Delivered At Place, and DDP–Delivered Duty Paid.”D” terms mean that the shipper has paid all transportation fees and taxes so that they are delivered with no additional costs to the buyer at their final location.When engaging in international trade, it is important to understand the terms of use. These terms can be found on the ICC Digital Library .

The International Chamber of Commerce has created a list of terms that apply to all modes of transportation. These terms are used to ensure the seller does not assume high-cost risks and liabilities during a transaction. In addition, these terms are recognized globally for each commercial invoice.

These terms are very detailed in describing the work, risks, and costs involved in a transaction between the seller and buyer. Every commercial invoice processed according to the requirements of its shipment greatly reduces potential high cost risk arising from misunderstandings.

All INCO TERM applicable to all modes of transportation

Main Areas of Responsibility

Incoterms are a set of rules created by the International Chamber of Commerce which govern international trade. They also cover four main responsibilities: they outline who can sell, buy, ship and transport goods.

  • Delivery stage: Here, the buyer and seller make an agreement for when your cargo’s status will change to “final delivery.” They also agree on the details of your final delivery. Once this is complete and upon the expiry of our agreement, we will release you from all liability.
  • Transportation stage: Incoterms are a set of internationally accepted terms for the process of buying and selling goods. They have been around for decades and provide standardized terms that avoid confusion when it comes to different pricing structures.
  • Documentation and formalities: These internationally recognized terms describe the responsibilities of the parties involved in international trade, and they vary according to different types of dealings.
  • Insurance: Incoterms are rules dictating to whom insurance coverage is provided during transportation.

What Are The Most Used Incoterms?

Incoterms are terms that are used to describe the mode of transportation of goods in international trade. They are used to specify the responsibilities and liabilities involved with the movement of goods.

The Most Commonly Used Incoterms Include: FOB, CIF, And DDP.

Over 90% of world trade is conducted on the seas, which is why Incoterms used there are mostly maritime terms.

There’s been a recent boom in e-commerce, and traditional methods for transactions were not established for every industry. When e-commerce first became popular, it was a new idea and it took some time to be widely accepted. We see the D-Group Incoterms in use quite often nowadays.

Here are a list of the most common Incoterms

CIF Cost, Insurance & Freight (named port of shipment)

The reason that CIF is the most popular Incoterms around is because it provides benefits for both parties involved. Most of the time, when you’re selling goods, this type of Incoterms will allow you to negotiate with different buyers and get more in return. It’s a good example of how advanced agreements can be beneficial.

The seller will provide delivery service up to destination and include this in the total cost of the order. However, they do not shoulder the risk that goods are damaged or lost along the way. That is why it’s important for buyers to keep an eye on their belongings during transport and inspect them carefully at destination.

For most goods, the buyer has the option of having them delivered to their own port. The tradeoff is that they take on a part of the risks from transportation. Most importantly, an insurance system recovers for any losses covered by your business

CIF is used in the transportation of vehicles, commodities, and machinery. It’s not recommended that you use it to carry containers though.

For these reasons, CIP Carriage and Insurance Paid To has a higher insurance minimum than CIF. We prefer using it to CIF overall.

DDP Delivered Duty Paid (named place of destination)

The price of the goods you buy often includes all the costs for getting them from the foreign country to your home: transport, import clearance, taxes.

You receive the goods at your door and only at that moment they are delivered to you.

You’re entitled to new goods if your truck has an incident and damages the goods or destroys them. You’re not at risk for any of this, though. You are only at risk for paying for a new shipment.

With DDP, you don’t need to worry about who will be sending it or what the conditions are. This is just one of the many reasons why DDP is so popular.

However, the lack of transparency in international shipping has prompted many e-commerce companies to use Dispatched Duty Paid (DDP) with their customers. This means that they will be charged duties and taxes upon shipment and not collected until the package arrives at its destination.

DDP is one of the most popular Incoterms, and it will continue to grow alongside e-commerce.

FOB Free On Board (named port of shipment)

There’s a monopoly on containerized Original Goods (OG) cargos, and there’s monopoly on containerized Originating Goods (OG) shipments.

The abbreviation FOB typically stands for First on Bill and the phrase can be used in a variety of different scenarios. However, it is often misunderstood & not appropriate in certain situations, which may lead to losses for both parties.

It is true that FOB is not usually used for cases like international cargo or domestic truck shipments, but we have actually seen it even being used to transport container-bound ground cargo.

Buyers often request a FOB (Free On Board) shipment rather than CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight), because goods that require handling or are hazardous for shipping are likely to need assistance. This often happens when the goods involved are also heavy in weight or unusually shaped. In order to achieve a standard on time delivery for your container shipping needs, you will need a supplier that can handle the additional logistics and responsibilities involved in this type of shipment. It is important that it be packaged properly to prevent any damage that may occur during transport.

These goods are important to your success in international trade. Purchasing them from FOB allows for a low cost shipping process, but only three options are available: Choose in-location pickup, choose self-contain carrying case and choose a lower cost shipment option.

FAS Free Alongside Ship (named port of shipment)

Imagine you have to ship various machinery, like a large power generator or something else that would not fit in a container… This is also referred to as out-of-gage cargo.

For this type of products, the best Incoterms is definitely FAS. While OOG cargos of course do not account for most shipments, rather just a small part, the fact that FAS has a monopoly over such merchandise means you can rely on them entirely.

FAS (Free Alongside Ship) means you don’t have to worry about loading your goods, shipping costs, or customs. Just be sure to send them the bill and they will handle it.

FCA Free Carrier (named place of delivery)

Sellers who use EXW often don’t realize that it was never meant to be used internationally. EXW involves the buyer picking up the product at once and the seller shipping it to them. This can be an obstacle in many cases since customers might find this difficult or inconvenient.

The Incotser FCA is seen as a much better option and has the same features with some minor changes made for international transactions.

There are many advantages to holding a FCA registration, including: – An ability to accept credit card orders. – A streamlined process. – Point-of-sale fee waivers for sellers offering your FCA registration product or service in the EU member nations.

  1. Sellers don’t want to be involved in transport costs
  2. Sellers rather not take any additional risks

The new FCA regulation is just one of many legal changes that trucking businesses in Europe are required to make. The same outcome typically arrives from FAS and FOB, but the new regulation mainly covers cargo shipments by truck.

If you are a seller, FAS and FOB require you to ship your goods internationally by a certain date. If you are buying internationally, then the seller could meet their obligation by putting the goods on board and sending them to an international port, airport or warehouse in close proximity.

FCA refers to the economic principle where goods are sold with the seller’s cost being included in the price. FCA is similar to EXW in that sellers can include their margin and avoid any discrepancies regarding what has been provided for free.

Not only is FCA as convenient as your standard e-commerce transaction, it’s also a lot more flexible than store sales- meaning you can set up a metric or fixed price and still sell items via one platform. FCA refers to the economic principle where goods are sold with the seller’s cost being included in the price. FCA is similar to EXW in that sellers can include their margin and avoid any discrepancies regarding what has been provided for free.

Which Incoterms are best for buyer? Tips from Super Intl shipping expert

There are many differences between FOB and CIF. One important difference is their transfer of responsibility ownership and liability. Contrary to FOB, which assigns responsibility and title as soon as goods leave the point of origin, CIF does not assign responsibility and title until a buyer receives the goods.

In general, FOB benefits buyers and CIF benefits sellers. However, we often recommend that new buyers use CIF until they’re more comfortable with the import process.

Why Not Use FOB?

The use of FOB (Free on Board), is considered the safest method when it comes to importing goods. Because importers assume more liability in shipment, they might turn away some potential buyers who want to purchase your item. Because of the new buyers’ inexperience, they can often make mistakes with their shipments that could cost your business very dearly.

As more people know that the importation process isn’t efficient, they might buy a contract with a larger quantity.

Why Not Use CIF?

Since sellers often charge extra fees when it comes to delivery, buyers may end up paying more for shipping in the end. Buyers might agree to a FOB agreement because they don’t want to be responsible for the wholesale costs of shipping. But in this case, CIF will probably be more cost effective.

Basically, many buyers are paying a special premium for the convenience of CIF service. They are also giving up their ability to control shipment status and contact shipping information. If something goes wrong with the shipment, getting a refund or replacement becomes much harder as it’s difficult to get noticed by customer service.. In addition, buyers are also required to receive the Importer Security Filing document from the seller. If they don’t file this late, there are serious consequences. This gives buyers little control over how they can protect themselves.

Insurers often offer special terms with CIF insurance when a seller owns the policy. It’s important to consult with your insurer before buying, as they control the insurance policies. If anything happens to the goods while they’re being shipped, the seller will receive the payout. You’ll probably already paid for those goods once. In this case, the buyer will also not be able to get their money back because product returns can be difficult to handle. Similarly, there can be legal complications caused by these returns or a lack of communication.

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Exploring the list of Incoterms and their respective applications

Understanding the list of Incoterms and their respective applications is crucial for businesses involved in international trade. Each Incoterm has specific applications, depending on factors such as the mode of transport, the type of goods being shipped, and the specific needs and preferences of the buyer and seller.

For example, the FCA (Free Carrier) term is commonly used for containerised goods, as it allows the buyer and seller to agree on the point at which the goods are delivered to the carrier. On the other hand, the DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) term is often used when the seller has the capacity to clear the goods for import and manage all the associated costs and risks.

Understanding the list of Incoterms and their respective applications allows businesses to select the most suitable term for their shipping needs. It enables them to strategise their shipping processes, optimising efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Conclusion: The power of mastering Incoterms for your business

Mastering Incoterms can provide significant benefits for businesses involved in international trade. It can simplify shipping processes, enhance operational efficiency, and foster stronger business relationships. It can also provide a competitive edge, enabling businesses to negotiate better terms with their trading partners.

Understanding Incoterms is not merely about knowing the terms and their definitions. It involves understanding the implications of each term, including the distribution of costs and risks, and the specific applications of each term. This comprehensive understanding allows businesses to leverage Incoterms effectively, unlocking their full potential and reaping their benefits.

Super International Shipping is a leading Freight Forwarder in China, well-versed in Incoterms and committed to simplifying your shipping processes. Contact us to learn how we can help optimise your logistics operations and enhance your international trade practices.


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