International Commercial Terms Rules

The Incoterms® rules or International Commercial terms are a series of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) widely used in international commercial transactions. A series of three-letter trade terms related to common sales practices, the Incoterms rules are intended primarily to clearly communicate the tasks, costs and risks associated with the 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 different interpretation of the rules in different countries. First published in 1936, the Incoterms rules have been periodically updated, with the eighth version—Incoterms 2010—having been published on January 1, 2011. “Incoterms” is a registered trademark of the ICC.

Incoterms 2020

Incoterms 2020

Incoterms 2020 main changes

  • DAT term changed to DPU (Delivery at Place unloaded)
  • FCA has two possible options
  • CIP requires insurance clause A instead of C
  • A new section of cost has been included
  • Customs clearance with export, transit and import explanations
  • FCA with a Bill of Lading on board notification if agreed

Incoterms 2010

Incoterms 2010

Incoterms 2010 defines 11 rules, down from the 13 rules defined by Incoterms 2000. Four rules of the 2000 version (“Delivered at Frontier”, DAF; “Delivered Ex Ship”, DES; “Delivered Ex Quay”, DEQ; “Delivered Duty Unpaid”, DDU) are replaced by two new rules (“Delivered at Terminal”, DAT; “Delivered at Place”, DAP) in the 2010 rules.

In the prior version, the rules were divided into four categories, but the 11 pre-defined terms of Incoterms 2010 are subdivided into two categories based only on method of delivery. The larger group of seven rules may be used regardless of the method of transport, with the smaller group of four being applicable only to sales that solely involve transportation by water where the condition of the goods can be verified at the point of loading on board ship. They are therefore not to be used for containerized freight.

Incoterms in Government Regulations

In some jurisdictions, the duty costs of the goods may be calculated against a specific term (for example in India, duty is calculated against the CIF value of the goods, and in South Africa the duty is calculated against the FOB value of the goods). Because of this it is common for contracts for exports to these countries to use these Incoterms, even when they are not suitable for the chosen mode of transport. Care must be exercised to ensure that the liability issues are addressed by negotiation with the customer.

Incoterms and the exporter

International Commercial Terms, known as “Incoterms”, are internationally accepted terms defining the responsibilities of exporters and importers in the arrangement of shipments and the transfer of liability involved at various stages of the transaction. Incoterms do not cover ownership or the transfer of title of goods. It is crucial to agree on an term at the start of a negotiation/ quotation of a sale, as it will affect the costs and responsibilities involved in shipping, insurance and tariffs. The new Incoterms 2010 rules were revised by the International Chamber of Commerce and are effective since January 1, 2011.

In any sales transaction, it is important for the seller and buyer to agree on the terms of sale and know precisely what is included in the sale price. Exporters should choose the term that works best for their company, but also be prepared to quote on other Incoterms.


After purchasing, goods need to be delivered and transported to buyers. This will require:

  • Proof of delivery by supplier in good order

  • Risk management through insurance

  • Adequate package or container for full container loads (FCL)

  • Provide shipping instructions to shippers

  • Receive from seller, all necessary documentation for export and import goods