John Pipe International est 1961

What are the 4 Sea Incoterms and What Do They Mean?

In the realm of international trade, the 11 Incoterms play a vital role in defining the responsibilities of buyers and sellers. Among these, four specific Incoterms – FAS, FOB, CFR, and CIF – are exclusively used in sea freight, providing clarity and consistency in maritime transactions. This guide focuses on these Sea Incoterms, offering insights into their meanings and applications within the broader context of the 11 Incoterms essential for global trade.

What are the 4 Sea Incoterms?

Want to learn more about a specific Incoterm? Click the relevant box below to be taken to a detailed guide.

The Four Key Sea Incoterms

There are four Incoterms that are specific to sea freight: FAS, FOB, CFR, and CIF. These sea Incoterms are used purely in sea freight forwarding:

  • FAS (Free Alongside Ship): In FAS, the seller’s responsibility is to deliver goods alongside the ship at the specified port. The buyer then takes over the costs and risks from this point onward.
  • FOB (Free On Board): Under FOB, the seller fulfills their obligation once goods have passed the ship’s rail at the named port. After this point, the buyer assumes all risks and costs.
  • CFR (Cost and Freight): CFR requires the seller to cover the costs and freight necessary to bring the goods to the port of destination. Risk transfers to the buyer once the goods are loaded onto the ship.
  • CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight): CIF is similar to CFR, with the addition that the seller must also procure and pay for the minimum insurance cover for the goods during the sea transit.

The Importance of Sea Incoterms in Global Trade

Sea Incoterms are integral to global trade, providing clear guidelines and reducing the potential for disputes in international transactions. They ensure that both parties understand their obligations in terms of cost, risk, and responsibility.

A Deeper Dive into Sea Incoterms

After understanding the basics of the four Sea Incoterms, it’s crucial to explore their impact on maritime logistics and legal frameworks

  • Contractual Implications: Each of the Sea Incoterms defines specific points where responsibilities and risks transfer from the seller to the buyer, influencing contract drafting in international trade.
  • Insurance Considerations: With terms like CIF requiring sellers to procure insurance, this section explains the nuances of maritime insurance under different Incoterms.
  • Risk Management: Understanding where risk transfers in the shipping process helps businesses manage potential losses and liabilities effectively.
  • Compliance with International Laws: Sea Incoterms also intersect with various international regulations and laws, making compliance a key consideration for traders.

Freight Forwarding

As a freight forwarding company, we act as a bridge between businesses and the world of logistics. We understand that shipping goods from one place to another can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with different modes of transportation, customs regulations, and documentation requirements. That’s where we come in.

Our dedicated team of experts works tirelessly to handle every aspect of the shipping process. We collaborate with our clients to understand their unique needs and tailor our services accordingly. Whether it’s arranging transportation, coordinating with carriers, or managing customs clearance, we take care of it all.

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Air Freight

When businesses choose our air freight services, they benefit from our extensive network of airline partners and industry connections. We work closely with major airlines and cargo carriers to ensure that our clients’ goods are transported swiftly and safely to their destinations.

Our comprehensive air freight services encompass various aspects, including documentation, customs clearance, and tracking. We take care of all the necessary paperwork, such as airway bills and customs forms, to ensure compliance with international regulations. Our dedicated staff handles customs procedures, ensuring smooth clearance and minimising any potential delays.

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Land Freight

One of the key advantages of land freight is its versatility and accessibility. We offer flexible solutions tailored to meet our clients’ specific needs. Whether it’s full truckload (FTL) or less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments, we optimise routes and consolidate cargo to maximise efficiency and minimise costs.

Our experienced team coordinates all aspects of land freight, from route planning to documentation and customs clearance. We handle the necessary paperwork, such as bills of lading and customs forms, ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and requirements. Our expertise in customs procedures helps streamline the clearance process, reducing any potential delays.

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Sea Freight

Real-time tracking is an integral part of our sea freight services. We provide advanced tracking systems that allow our clients to monitor their shipments’ progress from departure to arrival. This visibility enables businesses to plan their operations efficiently and keep their customers informed about delivery schedules.

Additionally, we offer value-added services to complement our sea freight solutions. These include warehousing, distribution, and supply chain management. With strategically located warehouses and efficient inventory management, we help businesses optimize their logistics operations and ensure smooth transitions between transportation modes.

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Specialist Freight

When businesses choose our specialist freight services, they benefit from our expertise and experience in handling specific types of cargo or specialised transportation needs. Whether it’s oversized, hazardous, temperature-sensitive, high-value, or delicate goods, we have the knowledge and capabilities to ensure their safe and secure transportation.

Our extensive network of trusted carriers and logistics partners enables us to offer tailored solutions for specialised freight. We collaborate with industry experts and specialised carriers who have the necessary equipment, certifications, and experience to handle unique cargo requirements.

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Our services: How we can help...

For sixty years, John Pipe International have been a diligent provider of export services. Based in the South of England, we are fully equipped to handle your export packing and freight needs. Whether you’re shipping overseas or packing dangerous items, our team are on hand to assist with the logistics of your project. With our MPAS certification, we are happy to assist with military and defence exports.

Management team

It takes a dedicated team to manage global logistics. The John Pipe International management team have years of experience and background knowledge. Find out more about the people who will manage your export project..

Jon Bradley

Jon Bradley


Jon joined us more than 25 years ago from a strong engineering and manufacturing background. His appreciation of machinery and processes can provide assurance to our customers from packaging design to delivery, linking all the different logistical elements to ensure goods are packed, handled and exported in the safest and most efficient way.

Nathan Kennedy

Nathan Kennedy

Managing Director

Nathan was approved by the MoD as a Military packaging designer in 2012, after qualifying as a Military packaging professional. Coupled with his Dangerous Goods in Transit qualification, Nathan can apply this knowledge and experience to ensure any goods are packed in tried and tested containers.

What are the 4 Sea Incoterms and What Do They Mean? Sea Incoterms Explained

Jon Felton


Jon is the Works Director for John Pipe International, based at the Hampshire branch. He has been a logistics professional for over 25 years and has held management positions in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. This has allowed him to build strong customer relationships and offer a comprehensive service package for packing and shipping to our clients.