What Is FOB? A Guide to Freight Shipping Terms

The best FOB definition is found in the meaning of the acronym itself, which is Free on Board, although some prefer to use the FOB definition of Freight on Board. Either way, this term signifies to the ship crew at what point during the shipping process the buyer of the product is not responsible for charges.

Some may wonder what the importance of understanding the FOB definition is, and there are many reasons why understanding this concept is important. The terms FOB determines the risk of loss involved as the product is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Furthermore, the buyer can lose a lot of money in being ignorant of these terms as they stipulate the amount of money owed for the shipment, and this can add up to a large sum of money especially for larger cargo.

Many are still confused at their options upon hearing the general definition. There are four standard choices in FOB. First, the seller can be responsible for paying for all of the shipping charges while the buyer is responsible for insurance on the product, and this method is known as CF Pay Freight to Destination. Others prefer to establish an FOB Destination which places a higher responsibility on the seller as they are responsible for both the cost to ship as well as the risk of loss. FOB Shipping Point is the exact opposite; the buyer is responsible for charges and possible damage. Finally, the choice of Pay Insurance and Freight to Destination stipulates that the seller is responsible for acquiring insurance on the product to protect it during the shipment.

Buyers of imported products who have been doing so for some time and have never been presented with their FOB options should inquire as they are subject to the terms set by the shipper, and these are often not to their advantage.

In the event that the product becomes lost or stolen during the shipping process, the buyer may be responsible for covering such damage. Often buyers will carry insurance on the shipment, but again this is something that should be determined beforehand in the terms and conditions. For this reason, all buyers of shipped goods should understand the concept of FOB.