Understanding CFR vs. CIF


Cost and Freight vs. Cost, Insurance, and Freight: An Overview

Cost and freight (CFR) is a trade term that requires the seller to transport goods by sea to a required port. Cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) is what a seller pays to cover the cost of shipping, as well as the insurance to protect against the potential damage of loss to a buyer’s order.

The two are part of a larger group of international trade rules known as Incoterms. These global guidelines for traders were devised by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), with the first version published in 1936. Each term refers to an agreement governing the responsibilities of shipping that fall respectively to buyers and sellers in an international trade transaction. This system of agreements aids in an orderly process of international trade by making contract models available that are easy to identify and understand in all languages.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost and freight (CFR) and cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) are terms used in international trade for the shipping of goods by sea.
  • CFR requires the seller to arrange for the transport of goods by sea to the buyer’s (required) destination. This includes the cost of shipping but excludes the purchase of marine insurance.
  • CIF is similar to CFR, except it also requires the seller to take out an agreed amount of marine insurance to protect against the loss, damage, or destruction of the order.

Cost and Freight

Cost and freight is a legal agreement between a buyer and a seller in international trade. The rule applies to goods that are transported by sea.

It requires the seller to transport goods by sea to the buyer’s (required) destination. The cost, therefore, is borne by the seller. Under CFR, the seller is also required to give the buyer the documentation necessary to pick up the goods from the carrier.

With CFR agreements, the shipping party has a greater amount of responsibility in arranging and paying for transportation than with minimal free on board (FOB) shipping, where the shipper is only responsible for delivering goods to the port of origin for shipping.

The agreement does not, however, require the seller to purchase marine insurance against the loss, destruction, or damage to the goods during transit. The risk to the goods passes once they reach the vessel, so the seller is not liable.

The receiver—or buyer—assumes responsibility once the ship has docked in the destination port. All remaining costs including those for unloading and any further transportation costs are then assumed by the receiver or buyer.

Cost, Insurance, and Freight

Like CFR, CIF is restricted for use between parties who deal in goods that are transported by sea.

CIF agreements are also nearly the same as CFR agreements. The seller is still responsible for all arrangements and transport costs for shipping goods to the agreed-upon destination port. The receiver then assumes all cost responsibilities once the ship has reached port.

The difference between the two agreements, though, lies in one additional responsibility that falls on the shipper (seller), who must also provide a minimum amount of marine insurance on the goods being shipped.

The amount of insurance is typically agreed upon between the buyer and seller. The seller is also responsible for any additional costs that come with transporting the goods. This includes any extra paperwork required for customs or inspections or any rerouting that must be done during transport.

The goods are the responsibility of the buyer or receiver once the goods arrive at the required port and are taken off the vessel.

The terms of the contract will outline the exact nature of the responsibilities of the seller prior to transport. Most CIF contracts will outline the following for the seller:

  • The purchase of export licenses for the product as required
  • Covering the cost and contracts of transporting the goods
  • The requirement of insurance to protect the order
  • Providing the necessary inspections for the products
  • If required, paying for any damage or destruction to the order

The Bottom Line

CFR and CIF are both very similar terms that relate to transporting goods by sea where the primary responsibility lies with the seller, particularly in the cost of shipping the freight. The difference between the two is that CIF requires marine insurance to be included, paid by the seller, that provides protection against any damages to the goods.

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