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LAWS3164 International Commodity Sales

Module Overview

This module covers CIF and FOB international commercial sale contracts, for two reasons. First, they form the backbone of international commodity sales. Secondly, they have features which are unique, not shared by other international commercial sale contracts. The international commodity market (including oil, as well as grain, foodstuffs, bulk ore), is of enormous global economic significance, with some of the largest companies in the world as players. It accounts for over 80 per cent of global tonnage of goods shipped (about six times that of containerised cargoes - it should not be forgotten that recent years have seen a revolution in bulk cargo carriage, as well as in containers). CIF and FOB contracts, the subject of this module, form the backbone of this market. The module concentrates on English law, which is typically chosen expressly by the trading parties, wherever they may be in the world. The module also looks at some of the many standard forms that are in use, and in particular at the features of them that are unique to the commodity trade. CIF and FOB contracts are of course contracts, and this module will build on the skills learned in contract in Part 1 of the programme. Central to the module is the effect of market fluctuations, which are the real (though not usually the stated) reasons behind most of the major disputes.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

By the end of the module you should be familiar with the main principles governing the English law of international commodity sales. You should be able to • handle the legal sources, • to understand better how the English law of contract works in real-life scenarios, and • to understand the arguments advanced in the cases, and in the secondary sources, such as books and articles.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • understand the main principles which govern the English law of international commodity sales.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse relevant legal materials, including statutes, case law and relevant clauses from standard commodity sale contracts
  • identify and explain the contractual principles underpinning the law relating to international commodity sales,
  • describe and assess existing areas of debate about what the law is and what it ought to be
  • apply the legal principles, with appropriate legal authorities, in the solution of complex problems
  • appraise and criticise existing debates in international commodity sales law, using appropriate legal research skills.
  • display clarity and objectivity in written discussion demonstrating an awareness of issue of academic integrity
  • locate and analyse relevant legal and other primary and secondary source materials including model contracts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • distinguish relevant from irrelevant materials
  • identify and analyse key issues
  • think critically, develop coherent arguments in writing
  • manage your time effectively.


The main principles of the English law of international commodity sales, including: • description of the main feature of CIF and FOB contracts; • why they are well-adapted for use in international commodity sales; • rights and duties of the parties, including those relating to carriage and insurance; • risk; • property; • role of the documents, in particular the bill of lading; • relevance of market fluctuations on the outcome of disputes; • rejection of documents and goods; • damages issues.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching for this module is by weekly 2-hour lectures and fortnightly 1-hour tutorials. Lectures will introduce the main principles and structure of the subject. You are expected to provide the main input to the tutorials, where the main issues of law are discussed. The most important part of learning is your own independent study. This will, however, be closely guided, and firmly tied into the lectures, tutorials and assessment. Most of the discussion will revolve around the main legal decisions, and the arguments that have been advanced, and accepted or rejected in the cases. In tutorials you will have the opportunity to present arguments orally to a group of peers and defend your position under challenge. E-learning E-learning facilities are provided through Blackboard. Lectures will be recorded in case any part of a lecture is missed, and for revision. Computer-based quizzes will be used alongside the lectures and tutorials to help provide a direction for your study. Reading Recommended reading will be provided for each tutorial, and there will be recommended books, which will, however, form only the initial basis for study.

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Todd, P.. Cases and Materials on International Trade Law. 



Mock Examination


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Examination  (1.75 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Examination  (1.75 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Examination  (1.75 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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