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What is the difference between intermodal and multimodal transport?
The concepts "intermodal transport" and "multimodal transport" are often used interchangeably on a daily basis, without many people really understanding their meaning or if there is any difference between the two.
Intermodal transport is the movement of freight from one point to another through several modes of transport, each of which has a different supplier and an independent contract. Several carriers are therefore contacted to make the same trip through several modes of transport.
Multimodal transport is the movement of freight from one point to another through several modes of transport, each of which has a different supplier, but under a single contract. A single carrier is therefore contacted to make a single trip across several modes of transport.
In simple terms, the two concepts have the same terminology, but the difference remains in the contract and the responsibility for transport.
|Mode of transport||Several||Several|
|Responsible for transportation||Several||Single|
A cargo is packed in Shanghai, China, routed to the port of Ningbo, then to the port of Fos/Mer (Marseille), France by sea. All of these operations are supervised by an intermodal service provider, under the orders of the shipper.
From the port of Fos/Mer, the receiver uses his service provider, who can also be an intermodal service provider, to move the cargo by rail to London station, followed by a road trip to its premises or a complete journey by road from the train station of London to Liverpool.
In this case, the main carrier (maritime) issues a maritime bill of lading from port to port and this whole operation is called intermodal operation, because it involves several different contracts:
- Between the seller and the transport service provider for road and rail journeys in France and the United Kingdom;
- Between the seller or buyer and the shipping company;
- Between the buyer and the transport provider for rail and road journeys from Fos/Mer.
The costs and risks of these contracts depend of course on the Incoterms used.
A cargo is packed in Shanghai in China, transported to the port of Ningbo by road, then to the port of Fos/Mer in France by Sea. All these operations are supervised by an intermodal service provider, under the orders of the main transporter.
From the port of Fos/Mer, the receiver uses his service provider, who can also be an intermodal service provider, to move the cargo by rail to London station, followed by a road trip to its premises or a complete journey by road from London train station to liverpool.
Here, neither the seller nor the buyer have contracts other than that with the main carrier.
In this case, the carrier issues a combined transport bill of lading or a multimodal bill of lading, and the entire operation is called a multimodal operation and it involves a single contract:
- Between the seller or the buyer and the shipping company.
The costs and risks of these contracts will of course depend on the Incoterms used.
More often than not, the above land movements are outsourced by the main carrier to specialized transport service providers, since many carriers do not have their own resources to carry out their operations.
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