International trade can be a complicated industry, with specific rules and terminology guiding and facilitating transactions between companies in different countries. One of these essential rules is the set of international trade terms known as Incoterms, created by the International Chamber of Commerce. Among these terms, one of the most widely used is the FOB Incoterm, which plays a crucial role in determining the responsibilities of sellers and buyers.

This article will focus on the definition, implications and legislation of the FOB Incoterm. We will analyze what exactly this term is, what obligations and rights it confers on both the seller and the buyer in a commercial transaction, how it differs from other terms, such as the CIF Incoterm, and what legislation governs its application.

A thorough understanding of these concepts is not only useful, but essential for any company operating in international trade. It provides clarity, reduces misunderstandings and helps minimize risks. Ultimately, our mission is to help you navigate your international business operations more efficiently. Join us as we unravel all the details of the FOB Incoterm.


What is the FOB Incoterm

The term FOB is an acronym for the English phrase“Free On Board“. This Incoterm is used exclusively in maritime transport, whether by inland waterways or sea.

FOB states that the seller is responsible for bringing the goods to the port of shipment and loading them on the vessel designated for export. Once the goods have crossed the ship’s rail, i.e. once they are on board the vessel, the responsibility is transferred to the buyer. This means that, from this moment on, any risk of damage or loss of the goods during transport is the responsibility of the buyer, not the seller.


FOB implications for seller and buyer

Under the FOB Incoterm, the implications for the seller and the buyer are clearly divided, facilitating international transactions.

For the Seller: Under the FOB term, the seller has several responsibilities. These include the preparation of goods for transport, customs clearance, customs clearance for export, and and transportation of the goods to the port of shipment. The seller is also responsible for the costs associated with loading the goods onto the ship. Once the goods are on board the ship, the seller’s obligations are considered fulfilled.

For the Buyer: On the other hand, under FOB, once the goods are on board the ship, the buyer assumes responsibility for the goods. This means that the buyer assumes all risks associated with the transportation of the goods from the port of shipment to their final destination. In addition, the buyer is responsible for freight, insurance, unloading and any other costs associated with transporting the goods from the port of shipment. The buyer is also responsible for any customs formalities required for the importation of the goods.

This clear sharing of responsibilities and risks makes the FOB term an attractive option for many international traders. However, it is essential that both the seller and the buyer fully understand their obligations under this term to avoid misunderstandings and disputes.


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Differences between FOB Incoterm and CIF Incoterm

Although the FOB Incoterm is widely used in international trade, it is not the only term that governs transactions of this type. Another commonly used term is the Incoterm CIF, or “Cost, Insurance, and Freight”.

While FOB and CIF may appear similar in certain respects, there are key differences that can influence a trader’s decision to choose one over the other.

Under the CIF term, the seller is responsible for arranging and paying the cost of the main transport, insurance of the goods during transport, and must also take care of the export formalities. The seller’s liability and risk ends when the goods are on board the ship, similar to FOB.

However, the main difference between CIF and FOB is that, with CIF, the seller is also responsible for providing minimum marine insurance for the goods. This means that if anything happens to the goods during sea transport, the buyer will have additional protection. In contrast, under FOB, the seller’s liability ends once the goods have been loaded on board the vessel, and he is not responsible for providing insurance.

This implies that, although CIF may offer an additional level of security for the buyer, it may also imply additional costs for the seller. As always, the choice between FOB and CIF – or any other Incoterm – will depend on the specific circumstances of the transaction and the preferences of the parties involved.


Infographic about Incoterms


FOB Incoterm Legislation

It is crucial to note that Incoterms, including FOB, are not laws per se. These are internationally accepted trade rules, issued by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), aimed at facilitating global trade transactions and eliminating any ambiguity in terms of the obligations of the parties.

The most recent version of Incoterms was published in 2020 and is the current reference for the use of these terms.

As far as FOB is concerned, and according to Incoterms 2020, this term should be used only for transport by water (sea or inland waterways). In addition, it is clearly established that the transfer of risks and costs from a seller to a buyer occurs at the point where the goods have been loaded on board the vessel at the agreed port of shipment.

It is important to remember that the use of Incoterms must be explicitly mentioned and agreed in the sales contract and it must be clearly defined which term is being used. Without an explicit agreement, there could be room for disputes.

Adherence to local and international legislation is another important consideration in the use of Incoterms. Although Incoterms are designed to be consistent with international laws and regulations, specific details may vary from country to country. It is essential that the parties to a transaction understand and adhere to the laws of their respective countries when using FOB or other Incoterms in their contracts.

In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain legal advice to ensure the correct implementation and understanding of the term FOB within a specific legal context.


Across Logistics, your reliable logistics partner

International trade can be a complex and challenging field, with many details to consider, from choosing the right trade terms to understanding local and international regulations. At Across Logistics we understand these challenges and are here to help you navigate through them.

As your reliable logistics partner, we strive to simplify logistics processes and help you grow your business. We have vast experience in international trade facilitation and a deep knowledge of Incoterms, including FOB and CIF. Our team is ready to assist you in selecting the most appropriate terms for your shipping needs, to ensure that your operations are as smooth and risk-free as possible.

At Across Logistics, we believe in building lasting relationships with our customers based on trust and mutual respect. We will provide you with the tools and guidance you need to make informed decisions, helping you maximize efficiency and minimize costs and risks.

If you are looking for a logistics partner that not only understands your needs, but is also committed to your success, look no further. At Across Logistics, we are ready to make your international trade operations easier and more effective. Let us be your guide in the world of international trade.