Difference between Intermodal and Multimodal

Intermodal and Multimodal – These two terms are often used loosely and interchangeably, but the question is what is the difference..

Here, we will discuss what they mean and what they represent in day to day shipping and freight environment..

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Definitions :

Intermodal – is the movement of cargo from origin to destination by several modes of transport where each of these modes have a different transport provider or entity responsible, each with its own independent contract.. Multiple carriers during a single journey

Multimodal – is the movement of cargo from origin to destination by several modes of transport where each of these modes have a different transport provider or entity responsible, but under a single contract.. Single carrier during a single journey

Simply put, the key functions of both terminologies are the same, but the differentiation lies in the contract and responsibility of the movement..

Explanation :

Intermodal operation : Cargo moving from Leicester in UK to Pretoria in South Africa – Cargo is packed in Leicester and moved by truck to the port of Felixstowe by a transport service provider (could also be termed as an Intermodal service provider) under the employ of the shipper..

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From Felixstowe, the carrier takes responsibility of the movement of the cargo to the discharge port in South Africa – say Durban..

From Durban port the consignee uses their transport service provider (could also be termed as an Intermodal service provider) to move the cargo by rail from to Pretoria Rail Terminal followed by a road move to their premises or a full road move from Durban port to their premises in Pretoria..

The rail and road service may be provided by the same transport service provider or could be done by two different service providers..

In this case, the carrier issues a Port to Port Bill of lading, and the whole operation is called an Intermodal Operation as it involves several contracts :

  • Between Seller or Buyer and Transport service provider for road/rail movement from Leicester to Felixstowe
  • Between Seller or Buyer and Carrier for sea movement from Felixstowe to Durban
  • Between Seller or Buyer and Transport service provider(s) for rail/road movement from Durban to Pretoria

The costs/risks for such contracts will of course depend on the Incoterms® used for this trade..

Multimodal operation : Cargo moving from Leicester in UK to Pretoria in South Africa – Cargo is packed in Leicester and moved by truck to the port of Felixstowe by a transport service provider (could also be termed as an Intermodal service provider) under the employ of the carrier..

multimodal

Cargo moves from Felixstowe to the discharge port in South Africa – say Durban..

From Durban port a transport service provider (could also be termed as an Intermodal service provider) under the employ of the carrier moves the cargo by rail from to Pretoria Rail Terminal followed by a road move to the consignee’s premises or a full road move from Durban port to consignee’s premises in Pretoria..

The rail and road service may be provided by the same transport service provider or could be done by two different service providers..

Here, neither the seller nor the buyer are arranging any contracts other than their contract of carriage with the carrier..

In this case, the carrier issues a Combined Transport Bill of Lading or a Multimodal Bill of Lading, and the whole operation is called a Multimodal Operation and it involves a single contract :

  • Between Seller or Buyer and Carrier for sea movement from Felixstowe to Durban

The costs/risks for such contracts will of course depend on the Incoterms® used for this trade..

More often than not, the above movements on the land leg are outsourced by the carrier to transport service providers as a lot of the carriers don’t have their own infrastructure to carry out these movements.. However, here the carrier enters into direct contract with their service providers..

Have you had any issues dealing with Intermodal or Multimodal transport..??

What did you think of the above article..?? Comment below..

38 comments on “Difference between Intermodal and Multimodal

  1. Dries van de Wal says:

    Hi, we have a transport which goes by truck from our supplier to the train terminal in Germany and from there on by rail to Chongqing, China. My supplier demands a multimodal BL for the whole transport but since there isn’t any sea freight involved it seems impossible to get since railway transport doesn’t involve a BL but a railway bill which doesn’t give title like a BL does. Do you have any advice on this?

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