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Incoterms are a set of 11 internationally recognised rules used around the world to make buying and selling clearer. They help figure out who has to pay for what and who has to do certain tasks. These tasks can include things such as shipping the goods, getting insurance for them, handling paperwork, customs clearance, and other logistics operations. On that note, let us understand in detail the meaning of incoterm logistics, what are its 11 sets of rules and guidelines, and more.


Incoterms® 2020: An overview

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) introduced the Incoterms rules in the year 1936 and since that year the Incoterms have been accepted internationally for interpretation in global trade. From the year 1980s, the International Chamber of Commerce updated and reviewed the incoterm rules every 10 years to adapt them to the current rate practises. If it comes to the latest version of Incoterms® 2020, then they will be affected from the first of January 2020. And this will be valued till the end of 2030. It means that in the years 2023 to 2029, there will be no change in Incoterms.

What are the 11 Incoterms?

Here’s a detailed explanation of Incoterms rules and guidelines based on the different transportation modes. Let’s understand in detail each category:

Incoterms rules for any mode(s) of transport

  • Ex-works (EXW)

As per this rule, it is the responsibility of the seller to make the goods available for pickup at the factory or warehouse. From that point forward, it will be the responsibility of the buyer to take all risks and costs. For the majority of the exporters and importers, it means that working with the freight forwarder that helpful in arranging the entire shipment in logistics from beginning to end.

  • FCA – Free carrier

It will be the responsibility of the seller to deliver the goods to the carrier at the name or the place that might be usually a warehouse or the terminal. The risk will be transferred to the buyers once it is handed over to the carrier.

  • CPT

As per the CPT rules, it will be the responsibility of the seller for the cost of transporting the goods to the other party’s destination. The seller gives the goods to a shipping company or another group chosen by the seller at a place they both agree on. The seller has to arrange and pay for the shipping to get the goods to the place where they agreed to hand them over.

  • CIP- Carriage and insurance paid to

This incoterm is similar to the CPT accepted that with CAB, the good sensor with the seller will also be responsible for paying and arranging the coverage for insurance in case of damage and loss of goods during the transit to the agreed upon destination.

  • DAP- Delivered at place

The 5th incoterm says that it will be the responsibility of the sellers to arrange for the whole shipment up to delivering the goods to the named place. After the delivery, the rescue will be transferred to the buyer as the seller will only be responsible for clearing goods for export but the buyer will assume the responsibility for import customs fees, duties and taxes.

  • DDP- Delivered duty paid

It will be the responsibility of the sellers to arrange the whole shipment including the customs fees, clearance and delivery of goods to the buyer’s destination.  This is the important places the majority of the responsibility to the sellers.

  • DPU- Delivered at place and load

As per Incoterm, it will be the responsibility of the sellers to arrange the shipment and delivery of goods and services at the named place. They will also be responsible for unloading the whole item at the place and the risk will be transferred to the buyer once the goods are unloaded.

Incoterms rules for sea and inland waterway transport

  • FAS- Free alongside the ship

As per the FAS incoterm, it will be the responsibility of these sellers to pick up the goods from the factory and they will also be responsible for delivering and clearing goods for export to the departure location. Now rescue will be transferred to the bias when goods are placed alongside the ship.

  • FOB- Free on-board

As per this rule, it can be said that the seller will be responsible for delivering, picking and packaging the goods to the vessel at the port of shipment. the liability will be automatically transferred to the buyers once the goats are boarded to the vessel.

  • CFR- Cost and fright

As per the CFR incoterm, the seller of the goods will be responsible for transporting the goods to the port of origin and loading them into the vessel. The seller will be responsible for transporting the goods but they will not be liable for another portion of the journey.

  • CIF-  Cost,  insurance and fright

It is similar to the CFR but the difference is that the seller also arranged and paid for insurance coverage for the goods during the transportation.

Differences between Incoterms 2010 and Incoterms 2020

As we already know the incoterm logistics meaning and the revisions made thereunder in every 10 years, let us have a quick overview of the key updates and major differences that have occurred:

  • Terminology changes: The primary change in terminology from Incoterms 2010 to 2020 is the shift from Delivered at Terminal (DAT) to Delivered at Place Unloaded (DPU) in 2020. This change broadens the scope from just terminals to all unloading locations. Both sets contain 11 terms.
  • Freight insurance in CIP: Under the 2020 update, the requirement for freight insurance in the Carriage and Insurance Paid To (CIP) term has increased, unlike the Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF) term, which remains unaffected. (Also read: How to start a freight forwarding business in India?)
  • Transport by buyer/ seller: The 2020 version accommodates scenarios where the buyer or seller uses their own transport, a shift from the 2010 assumption of third-party carrier involvement.
  • FCA and Letters of Credit: There’s a modification in how the Free Carrier (FCA) rule interacts with letters of credit.
  • Security-related costs: The 2020 revision specifies changes in responsibility for security-related costs. These costs, related to export and import clearance, are now more clearly defined. For instance, the seller covers security costs for export clearance, except in Ex Works (EXW) cases, while the buyer is responsible for import security costs, except in Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) cases.

Advantages of Incoterms

Here are some of the advantages of incoterm rules and guidelines:

  1. Clarity in international trade: Incoterms provide a clear and standardized approach to handling complex aspects of international trade.
  2. Reduces ambiguity: They help eliminate misunderstandings between countries, making trade negotiations smoother.
  3. Time and cost savings: Less need for legal intervention to interpret trade terms, as Incoterms simplify and unify these across different languages.

Disadvantages of Incoterms

Some of the disadvantages include:

  1. Varied preferences: Buyers and sellers often have differing preferences for specific Incoterms, leading to negotiation challenges.
  2. Potential for increased costs: Certain Incoterms might lead to one party bearing disproportionately higher costs.

Charul Nalwaya

Charul is a content marketing professional and seasoned content writer who loves writing on various topics with 3 years of experience. At Tata nexarc, it has been 2 years since she is helping business to understand jargon better and deeper to make strategical decisions. While not writing, she loves listing pop music.