Cost and Freight (CFR)

What Is Cost and Freight (CFR)?

Cost and freight (CFR) is a legal term used in foreign trade contracts. In a contract specifying that a sale is cost and freight, the seller is required to arrange for the carriage of goods by sea to a port of destination and provide the buyer with the documents necessary to obtain them from the carrier. With a cost and freight sale, the seller is not responsible for procuring marine insurance against the risk of loss or damage to the cargo during transit. Cost and freight is a term used strictly for cargo transported by sea or inland waterways.

Cost and freight used to be abbreviated as C&F. Then in 1990 it was changed to CFR by Incoterms, a set of commercial trade rules established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), after users complained of difficulties adding the ampersand symbol in telex messages and other technology used in the 1970s and 1980s.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost and freight is a legal term specifying that sellers are required to transport goods by sea to a port of destination and provide the buyer with the documents necessary to pick up the goods at the destination.
  • If a buyer and a seller agree to include cost and freight in their transaction, this provision means the seller is not responsible for securing insurance for the cargo for loss or damage during transportation.
  • Cost and freight is a commonly used International Commercial Term (Incoterm), a set of globally recognized terms that help to create a standard for foreign trade contracts and are published and regularly updated by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
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Cost and Freight (CFR)

Understanding Cost and Freight (CFR)

Contracts involving international transportation often contain abbreviated trade terms that describe matters such as the time and place of delivery, payment, the conditions under which the risk of loss shifts from the seller to the buyer, and specifying the party responsible for the costs of freight and insurance.

If a buyer and a seller agree to include cost and freight in their transaction, the seller must arrange and pay for transporting the cargo to a specified port. The seller must deliver the goods, clear them for export, and load them onto the transport ship. The risk of loss or damage transfers to the buyer once the seller loads the items onto the vessel but before the main transportation occurs. This provision means the seller is not responsible for securing insurance for the cargo for loss or damage during transportation.

Cost and freight is an International Commercial Term, also called an Incoterm. In order to facilitate foreign trade, the ICC publishes and regularly updates this set of globally recognized terms that help to create a standard for the terms of foreign trade contracts. Incoterms are intended to prevent confusion by clarifying the obligations of buyers and sellers, such as transport and export clearance obligations and the physical point where risk transfers from the seller to the buyer.

When an Incoterm such as cost and freight appears in a contract of sale, it creates a legal obligation, meaning it must be respected.

Similar Incoterms to Cost and Freight (CFR)

For goods transported internationally by sea or inland waterways, there are three other Incoterms that are closely related to CFR and that are frequently used in trade contracts.

What Does Cost and Freight (CFR) Entail?

Cost and freight (CFR) is an expense associated with cargo transported by sea or inland waterways. If CFR is included in a transaction, the seller must arrange and pay for transporting the cargo to a specified port. The seller is also responsible for delivering the goods, clearing them for export, and loading them onto the transport ship. However, once the shipment is loaded into the vessel, the risk of loss or damage falls to the buyer. This means the seller is not responsible for insuring the cargo during transportation.

What Is an Incoterm?

"Incoterm" is short for International Commercial Term, a set of terms and definitions published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). These terms are standardized to prevent confusion and clarify the obligations of buyers and sellers, such as transport and export clearance obligations.

What's the Difference Between CIF and CFR?

Cost and freight (CFR) and cost insurance and freight (CIF) are similar. They both relate to transporting goods by sea and divide the responsibilities of transit between the buyer and the seller. Where they differ is that CIF requires marine insurance to be included, at the expense of the seller. With CFR, the seller is not responsible for insuring the goods until they reach the destination port.

The Bottom Line

An Incoterms rule that’s applicable only to cargo transported by sea or inland waterways, cost and freight (CFR) puts a fair bit of responsibility on the shoulders of both the buyer and seller. Under these agreements, which are fairly common in international trade, the seller is responsible for all the planning and costs associated with exporting goods by sea to the destination port specified by the recipient. However, as soon as the goods are loaded on the vessel the buyer is responsible for providing marine insurance on them—and also for transporting the goods via truck to their final destination, import fees, and so on.

Article Sources
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  2. International Chamber of Commerce. "Incoterms Rules History."

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  9. Meadows Wye. "INCOTERMS - Responsibilities of Seller and/or Buyer Explained."

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