Incoterms, developed by the International Chamber of Commerce, are the universal language of global trade, dictating how goods move across borders and delineating the responsibilities, risks, and costs associated with transportation.


This blog post talks about one such critical Incoterm – the Free Carrier (FCA) – renowned for its versatility and efficiency in the eCommerce sphere. FCA outlines clear rules regarding the delivery of goods, transfer of risks, and division of charges between the buyer and seller, making it an indispensable tool for businesses navigating the global market.


As we get into the layers, you’ll discover what FCA is and how it can streamline your operations, the responsibilities of both sellers and buyers under this incoterm, and the pros and cons of FCA in shipping.


What is FCA Incoterm in Shipping?


FCA (Free Carrier) emerges as a pivotal Incoterm. At its core, FCA mandates that the seller delivers the goods to a carrier appointed by the buyer at a designated location. This location, intriguingly, could be the seller’s premises, making the seller responsible for loading the goods onto the buyer’s transport. Alternatively, it could be another specified location where the seller’s responsibility ends once the goods are ready for shipment, not necessarily loaded onto any means of transport.


For example, the XYZ company (buyer) implemented the FCA shipping term for its transactions with a key supplier (seller) in South Korea. Under the FCA agreement, the supplier was responsible for delivering the electronic components to the import country’s airport, handling all export customs clearance, and arranging freight transportation and formalities. This arrangement allowed XYZ company to exercise greater control over the international leg of the shipment. They negotiated a contract with a reliable air freight carrier that offered competitive rates and assured timely delivery to the Airport.


The transition to FCA proved transformative for XYZ company. They not only enjoyed reduced shipping costs due to better carrier rates but also benefited from improved transit times. Additionally, since risk and responsibility transferred to XYZ company at their airport, they could implement more effective risk management strategies, including comprehensive insurance coverage that provided additional security for their high-value shipments.



What are the Seller’s Responsibilities in FCA?




In FCA, the seller is entrusted with delivering the goods to an agreed-upon location, which is critical in the FCA framework. This location might be the seller’s premises or a mutually agreed external site such as a forwarder’s warehouse.




The seller’s role expands to creating and managing essential documentation, such as commercial invoices and sales contracts. The accuracy of these documents is paramount. They must comply with international trade laws and reflect the precise terms of the sale. To export goods to the buyer’s destination, the seller must be equipped with an export-import code.




When it comes to packaging, the seller’s responsibilities under FCA are comprehensive. The packaging must protect the goods during transit and comply with international shipping standards. This aspect becomes particularly crucial when goods are susceptible to damage or shipping through multiple transportation modes.




The seller must bear all costs related to transportation, vehicle loading, and customs export formalities up to the agreed delivery point.




Finally, the customs procedures fall under the seller’s domain. Handling export duty, taxes, and customs clearance is a complex but crucial part of the seller’s responsibilities. The seller must ensure that all export formalities are compliant with regulatory requirements.



What are the Buyer’s Responsibilities in FCA?


Arranging Carriage


A pivotal responsibility for the buyer in FCA terms is arranging and managing transportation from the named delivery point. This duty requires choosing a carrier and transportation modes (be it air, sea, road, or rail) and often coordinating multiple carriers to ensure seamless transit.


Managing Risk Post-Delivery


Once the goods reach the named delivery point, the risk transfers from the seller to the buyer. This shift necessitates a proactive approach from the buyer in risk management, like obtaining adequate shipping insurance coverage and having contingency planning.


Handling Import Formalities


The buyer’s responsibilities extend into the domain of import formalities. This encompasses understanding and complying with the destination country’s customs regulations, import duties, and taxes.


Unloading the Goods


Upon the goods’ arrival at the final destination, the buyer is responsible for unloading. This task may pose logistical challenges, particularly when the destination has specific unloading requirements or constraints.


Proof of Delivery and Documentation


Finally, the buyer receives and verifies proof of delivery documentation to confirm the receipt of goods and for compliance and record-keeping purposes. The buyer should ensure that all necessary documents, such as bills of lading, are in order and accurately reflect the transaction details.



Advantages of FCA for Businesses


  • In an FCA agreement, the buyer, often the business procuring goods, can select their preferred carrier and manage the main carriage.


  • Under FCA, buyers can shop for competitive rates and services that suit their budget and delivery timelines.


  • FCA offers clarity and precision regarding the transition of risk and responsibility from the seller to the buyer.


  • The retailer can consolidate shipments at a preferred logistics provider’s hub by opting for FCA, ensuring efficient handling and optimal transit times to various global destinations.



Disadvantages of FCA for Businesses


  • When the buyer, typically the eCommerce business, takes responsibility for the main carriage, they also take on the challenge of arranging international logistics. This includes selecting and coordinating with carriers, managing transit routes, and dealing with multiple intermediaries.


  • Another notable disadvantage is the risk of transferring goods at the named place. This transition point can be a gray area, especially if the terms regarding the exact point of risk transfer aren’t clearly defined and agreed upon.


  • FCA also presents legal and logistical challenges, particularly in managing export and import formalities. This requires the buyer to thoroughly understand international trade laws, customs regulations, and tax implications in the destination country.





By now, you may understand that the nuanced comprehension of FCA can serve as a powerful tool, providing businesses like yours with the control and flexibility they need to navigate international shipping. As you chart the course of your business’s future, consider investing in the NimbusPost platform to bring efficiency and effectiveness to your current shipping strategies.


Leverage NimbusPost AI-powered courier recommendation engine to find the best international courier service, which now you know how crucial it is. Benefits don’t stop here. Signing up with NimbusPost gives you comprehensive international shipping assistance like faster customer clearance and freight forwarding, reduced order fulfillment cost, and a dedicated account manager at zero setup and subscription fees.





What is the difference between FOB and FCA?


With FOB (Free on Board), a designated port or place of shipment acts as the delivery point. On the other hand, FCA requires goods to be delivered at a chosen place or carrier accepted by both the buyer and the seller.


What is the difference between FCA and EXW?


EXW: The seller makes the goods available for collection by the buyer. The seller has minimal obligations, such as making the goods available at their premises.


FCA: The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a carrier specified by the buyer. The seller must arrange for transportation and ensure the goods are ready for collection by the carrier.

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