Free Carrier (FCA) – 2024 Shipping Incoterms Guide

Release time:2024-03-13 11:32

Free Carrier (FCA) 2024 Shipping Incoterms Guide

In the realm of global trade, particularly when goods traverse international borders, the responsibility for arranging shipping and meeting export prerequisites often falls on the seller. This process is defined by a term known as "Free Carrier" (FCA), which falls under a broader set of regulations referred to as Incoterms® standardized trade terms crucial for the sale of goods.


FCA is predominantly employed in international transport and is adaptable to various shipping methods, including LCL (Less than Container Load), FCL (Full Container Load), and air freight.


In this discussion, we'll delve into the various rules associated with FCA Incoterms, their appropriate contexts, and the pros and cons of opting for FCA. As we explore this topic, we will exclude any promotional content and focus on providing information that aligns closely with our logistics services.


What is Free Carrier?

"Free Carrier" (FCA) is a trade term recognized globally under the Incoterms® rules, indicating that the seller is tasked with delivering the goods to a specified location chosen by the buyer. This location could be the seller's premises or another designated spot. Once the goods have reached this named place, the responsibility for further shipping and handling transfers from the seller to the buyer.


The term "Free" in this context refers to the sellers responsibility for handing over the goods to the buyer at a predetermined place, thus relieving the buyer of this particular logistical burden.


Under FCA terms, should the buyer not specify a preferred location, the seller retains the right to determine the most appropriate handover location


What are the obligations for sellers and buyers in Free Carrier?


In the Free Carrier (FCA) shipping arrangement, it is pivotal for both sellers and buyers to understand and adhere to their respective obligations to ensure smooth logistics.


Heres an overview of what each party is responsible for under the FCA terms:

Sellers Obligations vs. Buyers Obligations Under FCA

Seller’s Obligations

Buyer’s Obligations

Manage commercial invoices and documentation.

Pay for the order as per the sales contract.

Load cargo into the buyer’s transport if delivering to seller’s premises.

Unload cargo if delivered to a location other than the seller’s premises.

Pay for pre-shipment inspections.

Cover post-carriage shipping costs.

Package and prepare the order for shipping.

Pay for shipping insurance.

Handle export licensing and formalities.

Manage and pay for the main carriage.

Perform pre-carriage to the named place of delivery.

Take care of import formalities.

Provide proof of delivery.

Pay for pre-shipment inspection for import clearance.

Pay loading charges.




In a practical example, if Trent from the USA sends products to Bryan in the UK, Trent must pre-carriage the goods to a specific location like a transport hub, while Bryan arranges the main carriage and assumes liability once the shipment reaches the predetermined spot.


FBABOX can facilitate such processes, providing tailored services for international shipments, ensuring compliance with FBA requirements, and aiding in efficient and secure transportation of your goods. Get a quote now


Note: Export formalities are undertaken by the seller at the port of export, while import formalities are taken care of by the buyer at the destination port.


When should Free Carrier be used?

Opting for Free Carrier (FCA) is particularly advantageous in international shipping scenarios where the buyer assumes full responsibility for the main carriage of goods. This arrangement simplifies the process for the seller, transferring the logistical challenges of the shipment's main leg to the buyer.


FCA is also a fitting choice for the transportation of containerized goods. The term "containerized" refers to the method of shipping goods within standard-sized containers, which facilitates easier handling and transportation across different modes of shipping.


Moreover, many sellers find FCA appealing as it allows them to sidestep the complexities associated with overseeing a substantial portion of the shipping logistics. By transferring the responsibility of the main carriage to the buyer, sellers can focus more on other aspects of their business, making FCA a strategic option for those looking to minimize their logistical burdens.


For those looking for support in utilizing FCA for their shipments, FBABOX offers comprehensive services tailored to meet your specific needs. Whether it's managing the pre-carriage logistics, handling the necessary documentation, or ensuring that your goods are properly prepared for shipment, FBABOX provides a seamless solution that complements the Free Carrier shipping term, making international shipping more manageable and less time-consuming.Get a quote from FBABOX now


What are the differences between Free Carrier and Ex Works?

Understanding the distinctions between Free Carrier (FCA) and Ex Works (EXW) is crucial for businesses engaged in international trade. EXW denotes a scenario where the seller's responsibility is merely to make the goods available at their own premises, such as a warehouse or factory. The onus of collecting the goods, alongside managing all subsequent shipping logistics, falls entirely on the buyer.


Contrastingly, FCA represents a more equitable distribution of responsibilities and costs. Under FCA, the seller is obliged to deliver the goods to a carrier or another party nominated by the buyer at a specified location. This could potentially include loading the goods onto the buyer's transport. From this point onwards, the buyer assumes responsibility for the main carriage, embodying a more balanced approach in the sharing of risks and expenses between the seller and buyer.


This distinction highlights the importance of selecting the appropriate shipping term that aligns with your business strategy and logistical capabilities.

When is FCA better than EXW (and when it is not)?

FCA often offers more advantages than EXW by simplifying the buyer's responsibilities, particularly in arranging local transport and handling customs at the sellers location. The key differences between FCA and EXW, which further illustrate when FCA might be preferable, will be detailed in the following sections.



The seller delivers goods to a carrier, at a location decided by the buyer, for the buyers to pick up.

The seller delivers goods to their own premises for the buyers to pick up.

Fair sharing of responsibilities and risk between buyer and seller.

Inconvenient for the buyer since the majority of the shipping risk and responsibility falls on them.

The buyer assumes risk and cost once the goods reach the decided location/carrier hub. Title transfers to the buyer.

Convenient for the seller as they have very little responsibility.

Used for container transport.

Used by micro and small businesses that do not have the bandwidth to deal with shipping logistics.

Commonly used in international shipments.

Commonly used for domestic trade.

Delivery is considered to have happened when the goods are loaded onto the carrier arranged by the buyer.

Delivery is considered to have happened when the seller presents the order items to the buyer for collection at a pre-agreed location.

Loading risk stays with the seller.

Loading risk is on the buyer.


What are Incoterms 2020?

Incoterms 2020, established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), serve as a standardized set of shipping terms widely incorporated into international and domestic shipment contracts. These rules are crucial for determining the specifics of delivery, including the exact point in the shipping process where the ownership and risk of the goods transition from the seller to the buyer, as well as how the responsibilities for shipping costs are allocated between the parties involved.


Updated every decade to reflect evolving trade practices, the latest revision in 2020 introduced 11 distinct commercial terms designed to clarify the responsibilities, costs, and risks associated with global trade. These updates aim to enhance understanding and cooperation between sellers and buyers, ensuring smoother transaction processes and minimizing potential disputes related to shipping and ownership transitions.

Used for any mode of transport

Used for transport by sea and inland waterway

EXW – Ex Works

FAS – Free Alongside Ship

FCA – Free Carrier

FOB – Free on Board

CPT – Carriage Paid To

CFR – Cost and Freight

CIP – Carriage and Insurance Paid To

CIF – Cost, Insurance & Freight

DPU – Delivered At Place Unloaded


DAP – Delivered At Place


DDP – Delivered Duty Paid


In the Incoterms 2020, it was established that the buyer can instruct the carrier (in the sales contract) to issue a bill of lading (BOL) to the seller after the goods have been loaded onto the international carrier.


This BOL is required by the seller to prove that the cargo was loaded and satisfies the terms of a letter of credit.

How do they differ from Incoterms 2010?

The transition from Incoterms 2010 to Incoterms 2020 introduced several nuanced but impactful changes, particularly concerning the relationship between sellers, buyers, and carriers. Under the Incoterms 2010 framework, it was customary for the buyer to engage the carrier directly, resulting in a situation where the carrier had no direct obligations to the seller. This arrangement often presented challenges for sellers, especially when a Bill of Lading (BOL) issued by the carrier was required for the seller to receive payment.


A significant amendment in Incoterms 2020, particularly under the Free Carrier (FCA) term, addresses this issue by allowing the buyer to instruct the carrier to provide the seller with an onboard BOL. This adjustment facilitates smoother transactions by ensuring that sellers can obtain the necessary documentation to secure payment, thereby rectifying a notable gap in the previous version and enhancing the seller's security in the trade process.


Other Incoterms alternatives to consider

Beyond FCA, the realm of Incoterms offers a variety of terms designed to clarify shipping responsibilities, reducing misunderstandings between sellers and buyers. Here's a brief overview of some other popular Incoterms:


Free on Board (FOB): Ideal for bulk shipments not containerized, FOB applies when goods are transported by sea or inland waterway. The seller is responsible until the goods are loaded onto the vessel and cleared for export. Risk and ownership transfer to the buyer once the goods are on board.


Ex Works (EXW): Under EXW, the seller's responsibility is limited to making the goods available, packed, and ready for pickup at a specified location. The buyer oversees the loading, export procedures, and any subsequent transport, bearing all associated costs. While common in domestic trade, EXW poses challenges in international settings due to the complexities of managing loading and export formalities from abroad.


Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF): Similar to FOB but includes the seller covering the cost and arranging insurance for the goods up to the named port of destination. The seller secures minimum insurance; additional coverage needs explicit agreement. CIF is utilized for sea or inland waterway shipments.


Delivery Duty Paid (DDP): The most seller-responsible term, DDP, entails the seller managing carriage, delivery to the named place, import clearance, and all taxes and duties. Risk transfers to the buyer upon delivery and readiness for unloading. Suitable for various transport modes, DDP significantly minimizes the buyer's logistical burdens.


Each of these Incoterms plays a crucial role in international trade, offering structured options to suit different shipping needs and preferences. Understanding the nuances of each term can help businesses make informed decisions, aligning their shipping practices with their strategic goals.


How FBABOX helps with shipping logistics and ecommerce fulfillment

FBABOX specializes in streamlining the shipping logistics and e-commerce fulfillment process, providing comprehensive solutions that cater to the diverse needs of online sellers. Here's how FBABOX assists in various aspects:


**Customized Logistics Solutions:** FBABOX offers tailored logistics services, ensuring that your products are transported efficiently and cost-effectively. Whether you're dealing with FCA, EXW, FOB, CIF, or DDP shipping terms, FBABOX has the expertise to navigate the complexities of international logistics.


**E-commerce Fulfillment Services:** Beyond shipping, FBABOX handles all aspects of e-commerce fulfillment, from warehousing and inventory management to order processing and delivery. This comprehensive approach allows sellers to focus on their core business activities, knowing that their logistics needs are in capable hands.


**Compliance and Documentation:** Navigating the paperwork and regulatory requirements of international shipping can be daunting. FBABOX ensures that all shipments comply with the relevant customs regulations and that all necessary documentation is accurately completed, reducing the risk of delays or penalties.


**Cost-Effective Shipping Solutions:** Leveraging its network and expertise, FBABOX provides competitive shipping rates, helping sellers minimize their logistics costs. Whether you're shipping small parcels or large freight, FBABOX works to find the most cost-effective and reliable shipping options.


**Seamless Integration with E-commerce Platforms:** FBABOX integrates smoothly with major e-commerce platforms, streamlining the order fulfillment process. This integration ensures that orders are processed quickly and accurately, enhancing the customer experience.


**Expert Support and Guidance:** The FBABOX team offers expert advice and support, helping sellers make informed decisions about their shipping and fulfillment strategies. Whether you're new to e-commerce or looking to optimize your existing operations, FBABOX provides the guidance you need to succeed.


By partnering with FBABOX, online sellers can navigate the challenges of shipping logistics and e-commerce fulfillment with confidence, ensuring that their products reach customers efficiently and their business thrives in the competitive online marketplace.

Learn more about FBABOX


Free Carrier (FCA) FAQs

What does Free Carrier (FCA) mean in shipping?

Free Carrier (FCA) Incoterms is a trade term that requires the seller to deliver the shipment to a location specified by the buyer, which could be the sellers premises or another designated place.


Who pays FCA freight?

Under FCA terms, the buyer covers the cost of the main carriage, while the seller is responsible for all costs up to the point of delivery to the carrier.


Is FCA collect or prepaid?

FCA terms stipulate that freight must be prepaid. The goods must be handed over to the carrier by the seller, already paid for transportation.


How does FCA Incoterms work?

FCA Incoterms establish an agreement where the seller must deliver the goods to a buyer-designated location. Responsibility shifts to the buyer once the carrier receives the goods.


Can FCA be used for sea freight?

Absolutely, FCA is versatile and applicable to various transport modes, including air, land, and sea freight, making it suitable for a wide range of shipping needs.