Multimodal Versus Intermodal Shipping

Multimodal transport refers to the transportation of goods by two or more different modes of transport (such as road, rail, air or inland waterway, and short- or deep-sea shipping) as part of the contract where often a multimodal transport operator (MTO) is responsible for the performance of the entire haulage contract

There are multiple ways of shipping freight internationally. Some shippers are adamant that dedicated carrier movement via intermodal is the only way to go. Yet, others swear by multimodal shipping as the best way to move freight through the international chain. So, which is truly better? Intermodal or multimodal?

Well, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Both shipping modes offer a variety of benefits to each type of shipper. And they deliver these benefits in different ways. Ultimately, it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish, your budget, and the timeline.

When we break it all down, for us, it is hard to pick a favorite. They each operate in completely different ways, yet both of them excel at what they do.

Both freight movements involve using multiple modes of transportation, including trucking, ocean, railway, or air freight. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Logistics Ground in Asia Pacific
  •  Operating in all major countries and borders
  • Extensive services including: linehaul, Pick Up and Delivery (PUD), home delivery, milkrun, cross-border, courier and rail.
Transportation across Europe
  • Multi-sector and multi-mode capabilities
  • 450,000 tons managed a year
  • 40,000 shipments a year
  • 200 transport partners
  • Groupage/LTL/FTL
Logistics Ground in North America
  • Over 70,000 scheduled linehaul segments per year
  • Seven hubs and 62 stations
  • 7.5 million miles a month
  • 8,000 loads a month

Benefits of Multimodal for International Shipping

With a multimodal movement, the communication between shipper and agent is simplified. The only person the shipper will deal with directly is the MTO.

The contract with the MTO protects the freight ‘door-to-door’ or port-to-door, meaning that there is no lapse in coverage.

International shipments tend to be complicated when there are multiple parties involved. For shippers who prefer simplification or can’t afford transfer-related delays – the multimodal transportation option is likely best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still open questions?

Multimodal transport consists of carrying a single cargo by different modes of transport (air, land, ocean…) using Intermodal Transport Units (ITU) such as containers, semi-trailers or swap bodies (interchangeable containers).

The main characteristic of multimodal transport is that even though it includes various modes for transportation, it still falls under one single bill of lading. That means the carrier is fully liable for the entire carriage even though it is performed by different modes of transport such as Air, Rail Road or Sea

Easier Communication

When companies ship through multimodal transportation, they handle all shipping updates, delays, and interactions through one provider and contract. This gives shippers ease of mind and simplifies the process of communicating between different contacts and carriers.

  • High requirements to ensure security due to constant inspections by the authorities at stations or other roads.
  • Certain restrictions of a legal and operational nature due to differences in international standards.

A transport document indicating more than one mode of transportation. A received for shipment (marine B/L) indicating that pre-carriage from an inland originating point as well as main carriage transport were handled by main carrier.

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