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What Is Multimodal Freight?


Multimodal Freight is a type of freight that involves the use of more than one mode of transportation to transport goods from the supplier to the buyer, and it can be a combination of two or more of any means of transport, such as road, rail, sea, or airfreight. It involves changing the method of shipment only, without any change in the handling of the goods, for example, if the goods are transported in a specific container in intermodal transport, the method of shipment will change, but the container will remain the same, it is also called combined transport. Despite the diversity in modes of transport, multimodality is made under a single contract which means there is only one bill of lading.

The movement is made with shipping containers that can easily move from one transport mode to another. Pickup and drop off modes are usually road, and in some cases rail, while the main transit includes ocean or air. This mode of transportation influences the delivery time of the freight, the type of the freight, the budget restrictions, and the destination.

Also, there is only one provider who takes the responsibility for the cargo and its destination. Part of the international transport is multimodal and includes rail, road, sea, air etc.

Intermodal vs. Multimodal:

In multimodal transportation, one contract covers the entire journey. One carrier takes sole responsibility and ensures door-to-door delivery is completed, even if other carriers are used in the journey. Defined as the movement of cargo from origin to destination using several modes of transportation. In this instance, however, each mode is operated by a single carrier or multiple carriers, but under a single contract or Bill of Lading. A single carrier for a single journey. The same transport carrier is responsible for moving the shipment across all legs, in all modes.

In intermodal transportation, there is a separate contract for each individual leg of the journey. This means that there is more than one responsible entity for the successful delivery of the cargo.

Advantages Of Multimodal Transportation Are: Multimodal holds several advantages, the first being less overheads for you. Companies that handle multimodal shipping will be able to handle delays in one leg of the shipment in relation to the other legs without you needing to be involved. This method provides a one stop shop service, so every single aspect is handled by one provider, giving you ease and peace of mind.

Shipment tracking efficiency and Security Being able to monitor with one transport carrier from door-to-door. The carrier is completely responsible. If the contractor provides the damaged goods to the recipient, the contractor must compensate the recipient fairly.

b) Access to remote parts of the world with responsibility and liability of the movement with one transport carrier.

c) Efficiency in delivery time

If the customer is responsible for freight delivery on his own, he will need to negotiate with several companies. When multimodal transportation is used, delivery is managed by the contractor, not the customer.

d) Minimize logistics coordination expenses of a shipper

The customer enters a single arrangement with a single company, rather than many agreements with multiple companies, which allows you to minimize costs.

e) Optimization of freight transportation

In some cases, transporting goods from point A to point B via a single mode of transport is too costly. Multimodal transportation enables the route to be divided into several segments so that goods are delivered by a variety of modes of transport, which not only saves money but also expedites the delivery of goods.

f) There is no need to create many documents

The customer is only required to gather one packet of documents and deliver it to the contractor. Of course, additional documentation may be necessary for shipment, but usually, the carrier handles the preparation of this documentation.

Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal is defined as the movement of cargo from origin to destination using several modes of transportation. Each mode is operated by a different carrier, and each leg requires an independent contract. Multiple carriers for a single journey with each leg handled by a separate transport carrier.

When using intermodal shipping, each leg of that shipment will be handled by a separate company and you will have several contracts, one with each carrier, to handle their specific leg of the shipment.

Advantages of Intermodal Transportation Are:

There are some advantages to doing this, namely that you can negotiate terms separately with each company. This, however, means more overheads for you as you will need to keep track of several contracts with different providers. You may also be responsible for handling coordination of delays, as one company will not be aware of the delays that another company might be having.

a) Shippers can choose carriers to take advantage of lower rates for each transport leg.

b) Shippers gain flexibility and specialized handing of loading and unloading goods at different ports.

c) Shippers reduce their carbon footprint by choosing environmentally friendly carriers.

d) There is increased security of the products being transported; and

e) Shippers have more access to equipment and can better control capacity and selection of transit schedules.

Speed vs. Cost

Multimodal transportation and intermodal transportation are both efficient in terms of speed and value when compared to conventional trucking logistics. However, in an in-depth analysis of intermodal vs multimodal concepts, multimodal transportation is the best when suppliers put more emphasis on speed than the cost of transportation. This reason is why multimodal transportation is the best replacement for the conventional transportation system. In terms of intermodal transportation, it is cost-efficient, but the pressure and complexity of intermodal routing and creating a combination of transportation modes fall on the head of the contractor or supplier, which can become a daunting process if used daily.

The advantage of both intermodal and multimodal transportation is that they combine the most efficient transport modes. This optimises lead times, reduces inventory costs and keeps the level of freight costs under control. It also results in increased environmental sustainability, reducing the transportation carbon footprint.

In summary, intermodal is related as an operation where the cargo is transported from its origin up to its destination, by several modes, with one different contract by segment (its implies in partial responsibility of each transport provider). Multimodal is the transport operation where despite the use of several modes, a single provider (and a single contract) assumes the entire responsibility from the cargo origin until its destination.

At Image International Freight we offer multimodal freight options for your business, call us today on +61 2 9773 1378 OR email us at


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