Intermodal Vs Multimodal – what is the difference..??

Intermodal & Multimodal – These two terms are often used loosely and interchangeably, but they have discernible differences..  Here, we will discuss what they mean and what they represent in day to day shipping and freight environment..debatebig

Summary :

  • 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..

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..

Below image might help explain more clearly..

intermodal

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..

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..

Below image might help explain more clearly..

multimodal



You can share your views about above article here..

12 comments on “Intermodal Vs Multimodal – what is the difference..??

  1. tarek ali says:

    excellent

  2. Vincent says:

    Dear Hariesh,
    Preparing a lesson on intermodal, I was reading this post.
    it’s clear and perfectly described but I wonder if these definitions are shared by any shipping conventions or clearly used as you described.
    Taking into account the terminlogy as established by european community, I found
    “”MULTIMODAL TRANSPORT:Carriage of goods by two or more modes of transport””. (as simple as is), but precised by some (as ITF) as case where the cargo is unloaded/loaded in the second (or more) mean of transport
    and
    “”INTERMODAL TRANSPORT : The movement of goods in one and the same loading unit or road vehicle, which uses successively two or more modes of transport without handling the goods themselves in changing modes.
    By extension, the term intermodality has been used to describe a system of transport whereby two or more modes of transport are used to transport the same loading unit or truck in an integrated manner, without loading or unloading, in a [door to door] transport chain. “” in this case cargo remains in the same loading unit (namely the container) and no loading/unloading of the cargo (but the unit).
    Then as per my understanding, Multimodal will refer to bulk shipment (or any breakbuk) and Intermodal to container.
    On the other side, I agree that we are using, within shipping industry, multimodal BL (Us case) or for Haz, Multimodal Dangerous Goods Forms.
    What is your point of view on this terminology ?
    thks
    Vincent

  3. Vikram says:

    Thanks for the clarification

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  7. Karthikeyan. J says:

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