While drafting Incoterms 2000, considerable efforts have been made to achieve as much consistency as possible and desirable with respect to the various expressions used throughout the thirteen terms. Thus, the use of different expressions intended to convey the same meaning has been avoided. Also, whenever possible, the same expressions as appear in the 1980 UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) have been used.
In some cases it has been necessary to use the same term to express two different meanings simply because there has been no suitable alternative. Traders will be familiar with this difficulty both in the context of contracts of sale and also of contracts of carriage. Thus, for example, the term «shipper» signifies both the person handing over the goods for carriage and the person who makes the contract with the carrier: however, these two «shippers» may be different persons, for example under a FOB contract where the seller would hand over the goods for carriage and the buyer would make the contract with the carrier.
It is particularly important to note that the term «delivery» is used in two different senses in Incoterms. First, it is used to determine when the seller has fulfilled his delivery obligation which is specified in the A4 clauses throughout Incoterms. Second, the term «delivery» is also used in the context of the buyer's obligation to take or accept delivery of the goods, an obligation which appears in the B4 clauses throughout Incoterms. Used in this second context, the word "delivery" means first that the buyer "accepts" the very nature of the "C"-terms, namely that the seller fulfils his obligations upon the shipment of the goods and, second that the buyer is obliged to receive the goods. This latter obligation is important so as to avoid unnecessary charges for storage of the goods until they have been collected by the buyer. Thus, for example under CFR and CIF contracts, the buyer is bound to accept delivery of the goods and to receive them from the carrier and if the buyer fails to do so, he may become liable to pay damages to the seller who has made the contract of carriage with the carrier or, alternatively, the buyer might have to pay demurrage charges resting upon the goods in order to obtain the carrier's release of the goods to him. When it is said in this context that the buyer must "accept delivery", this does not mean that the buyer has accepted the goods as conforming with the contract of sale, but only that he has accepted that the seller has performed his obligation to hand the goods over for carriage in accordance with the contract of carriage which he has to make under the A3 a) clauses of the "C"-terms. So, if the buyer upon receipt of the goods at destination were to find that the goods did not conform to the stipulations in the contract of sale, he would be able to use any remedies which the contract of sale and the applicable law gave him against the seller, matters which, as has already been mentioned, lie entirely outside the scope of Incoterms.
Where appropriate, Incoterms 2000, have used the expression «placing the goods at the disposal of» the buyer when the goods are made available to the buyer at a particular place. This expression is intended to bear the same meaning as that of the phrase "handing over the goods" used in the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.
The word "usual" appears in several terms, for example in EXW with respect to the time of delivery (A4) and in the "C"-terms with respect to the documents which the seller is obliged to provide and the contract of carriage which the seller must procure (A8, A3). It can, of course, be difficult to tell precisely what the word "usual" means, however, in many cases, it is possible to identify what persons in the trade usually do and this practice will then be the guiding light. In this sense, the word "usual" is rather more helpful than the word "reasonable", which requires an assessment not against the world of practice but against the more difficult principle of good faith and fair dealing. In some circumstances it may well be necessary to decide what is "reasonable". However, for the reasons given, in Incoterms the word "usual" has been generally preferred to the word "reasonable"
With respect to the obligation to clear the goods for import it is important to determine what is meant by «charges» which must be paid upon import of the goods. In Incoterms 1990 the expression «official charges payable upon exportation and importation of the goods» was used in DDP A6. In Incoterms 2000 DDP A6 the word «official» has been deleted, the reason being that this word gave rise to some uncertainty when determining whether the charge was «official» or not. No change of substantive meaning was intended through this deletion. The «charges» which must be paid only concern such charges as are a necessary consequence of the import as such and which thus have to be paid according to the applicable import regulations. Any additional charges levied by private parties in connection with the import are not to be included in these charges, such as charges for storage unrelated to the clearance obligation. However, the performance of that obligation may well result in some costs to customs brokers or freight forwarders if the party bearing the obligation does not do the work himself.
So far as concerns the place at which the goods are to be delivered, different expressions are used in Incoterms. In the terms intended to be used exclusively for carriage of goods by sea -such as FAS, FOB, CFR, CIF, DES and DEQ - the expressions «port of shipment» and «port of destination» have been used. In all other cases the word «place» has been used. In some cases, it has been deemed necessary also to indicate a «point» within the port or place as it may be important for the seller to know not only that the goods should be delivered in a particular area like a city but also where within that area the goods should be placed at the disposal of the buyer. Contracts of sale would frequently lack information in this respect and Incoterms therefore stipulate that if no specific point has been agreed within the named place, and if there are several points available, the seller may select the point which best suits his purpose (as an example see FCA A4). Where the delivery point is the seller's "place" the expression «the seller's premises» (FCA A4) has been used.
In the terms intended to be used for carriage of goods by sea, the expressions «ship» and «vessel» are used as synonyms. Needless to say, the term «ship» would have to be used when it is an ingredient in the trade term itself such as in «free alongside ship» (FAS) and «delivery ex ship» (DES). Also, in view of the traditional use of the expression «passed the ship's rail» in FOB, the word «ship» has had to be used in that connection.
In the A9 and B9 clauses of Incoterms the headings «checking -packaging and marking» and «inspection of the goods» respectively have been used. Although the words «checking» and «inspection» are synonyms, it has been deemed appropriate to use the former word with respect to the seller's delivery obligation under A4 and to reserve the latter for the particular case when a «pre-shipment inspection» is performed, since such inspection normally is only required when the buyer or the authorities of the export or import country want to ensure that the goods conform with contractual or official stipulations before they are shipped.