Incoterms 2020 – our advice for post-Brexit trading

Incoterms 2020 book

As the UK departs the EU this Friday, International Forwarding (IFL) offers the following recommendation for import-export customers to allow for a smoother trading transition.

With new post-Brexit procedures due to be introduced from 1 January 2021, IFL strongly recommends exporters and importers not already using Incoterms to take steps to show them on their commercial documentation.

What are Incoterms?

Incoterms (international commercial terms) are the worldwide recognised terms of sale for exporters and importers. There are 11 terms of sale used by sellers and buyers in international trade. They range from Ex-Works (EXW) where all transport costs, duties and taxes are payable by the buyer, to Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) with all costs payable by the seller. The other Incoterms split the costs between seller and buyer.

The terms determine which party pays which costs in the transport chain. Most importantly, they determine the point at which the risk passes from seller to buyer. The party bearing this risk needs to have insurance cover in place against loss or damage to the goods.

Incoterms 2020 explained

Incoterms were introduced in 1936 by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to give a clear explanation about the exact meaning of the various terms of sale in use at that time. They became internationally recognised by exporters, importers, banks and insurance companies.

The terms are updated every 10 years and the ICC has just published the version for 2020. Some terms are more complex than others and full details are here on ICC site. Printed copies of Incoterms 2020 are available (€45 plus postage) or there is a free app.

The printed version of Incoterms 2020 clearly sets out which party has the legal responsibility for both the insurable risks and for arranging their part of the carriage in the transport chain.

The 2020 updates are relatively minor. The term Delivered at Terminal (DAP) has been amended to Delivery Place Unloaded (DPU) to aid clarity. There are additional notes relating to the terms Free Carrier (FCA) when shipped on board bills of lading are required, and there are updates relating to the costs of compliance with new maritime security legislation.

Customer support

IFL can provide detailed support to export and import customers regarding Incoterms. For any questions or freight quotes, please email

Our glossary of shipping terms is also there to help you get to grips with your shipment.


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