John Pipe International est 1961

What are the 7 Universal Incoterms and What Do They Mean?

In the landscape of international commerce, a total of 11 Incoterms facilitate global trade by defining the roles and responsibilities of buyers and sellers. Among these, 7 are designated as Universal Incoterms due to their applicability across all modes of transportation, including air, sea, and land. This guide focuses on these versatile terms, providing an in-depth understanding within the broader scope of all 11 Incoterms.

What are the 7 Universal Incoterms?

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

The Seven Universal Incoterms

There are seven universal Incoterms that apply to all types of freight: EXW, FCA, CIP, CPT, DDP, DAP, DPU:

  • EXW (Ex Works): The seller makes the goods available at their premises. The buyer is responsible for all transportation costs and risks.
  • FCA (Free Carrier): The seller hands over the goods, cleared for export, into the custody of the first carrier at the named place.
  • CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): The seller pays for the carriage and insurance to the named destination point, but risk transfers to the buyer upon handing goods over to the first carrier.
  • CPT (Carriage Paid To): The seller pays for transporting the goods to the destination, but the risk transfers to the buyer when the goods are handed over to the first carrier.
  • DDP (Delivered Duty Paid): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the named place in the buyer’s country and pays all costs in bringing the goods to the destination including import duties and taxes.
  • DAP (Delivered at Place): The seller delivers the goods to a named destination, ready for unloading at the buyer’s risk and cost.
  • DPU (Delivered at Place Unloaded): The seller delivers and unloads the goods at a named place. The risk transfers to the buyer once the goods are unloaded.

The Role of the Seven Universal Incoterms in Harmonising Global Trade

Universal Incoterms are fundamental in harmonizing the process of global trade. By standardising terms, they reduce misunderstandings and disputes, leading to smoother transactions. Understanding these terms is crucial for businesses to negotiate better deals, manage risks effectively, and comply with international trade laws.

Key Aspects and Implications of the Universal Incoterms in International Trade

The 7 Universal Incoterms, crucial for global trade across various transportation modes, encompass essential guidelines for buyers and sellers in handling transportation risks, costs, and responsibilities.

  1. Versatility and Adaptability: These Incoterms are applicable to air, sea, and land transport, offering consistency in international logistics.
  2. Risk and Cost Transfer: They specify the exact points of risk and cost transfer from sellers to buyers, crucial for clear contractual agreements.
  3. Customs and Compliance: Clarifying responsibilities for customs clearance and adherence to international trade laws, these terms help prevent disputes and ensure compliance.
  4. Insurance Responsibilities: Certain terms like CIP outline specific insurance obligations during transit, providing security and clarity in trade transactions.
  5. Legal and Strategic Considerations: Understanding these Incoterms aids in legal compliance and enhances negotiation strategies in global trade.

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 7 Universal Incoterms and What Do They Mean? Universal 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.