UCP 600: Legal Definition, Guidelines and Applicability

What is UCP 600?

UCP 600 is a set of standardised rules established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) governing the issuing and use of letters of credit in international trade.

Uniform Customs & Practice for Documentary Credits: UCP 600 Legal Definition and Overview

The Uniform Customs & Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 600) is a set of standardised rules governing issuing and using letters of credit.

Established by the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC), the UCP 600 aims to provide a harmonised framework for facilitating international trade and finance.

Historical Background

The UCP has its roots in the early 20th century when the need for a unified set of guidelines for letters of credit became evident.

The ICC, recognising the challenges traders and bankers face due to varying national regulations, introduced the first UCP in 1933.

Since then, it has undergone several revisions, with UCP 600 being the latest version, introduced in 2007.

Key Provisions

  • Applicability: UCP 600 applies to all documentary credits, including standby letters of credit, when they expressly indicate so.
  • Documentary Credits vs Contracts: UCP 600 emphasises that banks deal with documents, not goods, services, or performance. Hence, banks are not liable for the underlying contracts.
  • Compliance: Documents presented under a credit must be consistent with the terms and conditions of the credit, be compliant on their face, and be presented within the stipulated time.
  • Discrepant Documents: Banks must refuse discrepant documents and notify the party presenting them.
  • Honour & Negotiation: Banks must honour a complying presentation under a sight credit by payment. Under a term/negotiation credit, by accepting drafts or, where applicable, by deferred payment.
  • Confirming Bank Undertaking: The confirming bank is irrevocably bound to honour or negotiate if a credit is confirmed.
  • Transfer & Assignment: It allows transferring documentary credits under specific circumstances.


  • Uniformity: UCP 600 provides a standardised set of practices, reducing ambiguities and misunderstandings in international trade.
  • Risk Mitigation: By emphasising compliance and the role of banks, it minimises the risks associated with documentary credits.

What are the responsibilities of banks under UCP 600 concerning documentary credits?

Under UCP 600, banks must act in good faith and exercise reasonable care when handling documentary credits. They must strictly adhere to the terms of the credit and deal only with documents, not the underlying goods or services.

Banks are responsible for examining the presented documents to ensure they appear on their face to be in compliance with the credit’s terms.

Banks must promptly refuse the documents and notify the presenting party if discrepancies are found.

Additionally, banks must honour or negotiate a complying presentation based on the credit’s stipulations, either by payment, acceptance, or deferred payment.

What Guidelines Does UCP 600 Provide For “Pre-Shipment Finance”?

UCP 600 indirectly touches upon pre-shipment finance through its “red and green clauses” provisions in letters of credit.

A “red clause” allows the beneficiary to draw an advance before shipment, based on a simple receipt, to facilitate procurement or production of goods.

A “green clause” extends this by covering warehousing costs for goods before shipment. The beneficiary can access funds upon presenting stipulated documents, like warehouse receipts.

However, the bank’s liability is contingent upon receiving the final shipping documents that comply with the credit’s terms.

How Does UCP 600 Handle Situations Where Documents Are Lost In Transit Or Outside The Control Of The Presenting Bank?

UCP 600 addresses the issue of documents lost in transit or outside the control of the presenting bank in Article 35.

It states that if a bank, after sending documents, receives notice that the transport documents have been lost, stolen, or destroyed, it must promptly inform the beneficiary.

The bank is not obligated to pay unless it receives the duplicate transport documents and an indemnity from the beneficiary, safeguarding the bank against potential loss or claims arising from the original documents.

The bank’s responsibility is limited to determining on their face whether the replacement documents comply with the credit’s terms, ensuring that banks remain neutral and only deal with the documents, not the underlying goods or services.

How Does UCP 600 Handle Discrepancies In Shipping Dates?

If a credit specifies a particular or the latest shipment date, the presented documents must provide evidence that the goods were shipped on or before that date.

If there is a discrepancy, meaning the shipment occurred after the specified date, the documents are considered non-compliant.

Banks must refuse documents that do not conform to the credit’s terms.


The Uniform Customs & Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 600) remains a cornerstone in international trade finance. It has facilitated countless transactions and bolstered global trade by providing a robust framework for documentary credits.

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