Multimodal Transport


In today’s world, multimodal transport is a basic element for the transfer of merchandise from one place to another using different vehicles so that the cargo reaches its destination quickly and safely with a single transport contract.  

What is multimodal transport?

Multimodal transport is the coordination of different modes of transport used to move materials or goods from one place to another, through a transport contract.


Multimodal transport can be domestic or for companies that want to move their goods or materials.


In the global framework, multimodals transport can be: intermodal , where different types of vehicles will be used to transport the load, or combined transport that will use the same chain of vehicles to move the load.

  • History of multimodals transport
  • Characteristics of multimodals transport
  • Types of multimodals transport
  • Importance of multimodals transport
  • Advantages of multimodals transport
  • Disadvantages
  • Example of multimodals transport

History of multimodal transport

The concept of multimodal transport is not really new. As early as the seventeenth century, a well-known French writer described how his horse carriage was mounted on a boat and they would go down the Rhone River for 400 kilometers to avoid the rough roads of the railways of that time. However, modern multimodal transport was born with railways .

Characteristics of multimodal transport

Among the most common characteristics of multimodals transport we can mention the following:

  • Two or more types of transport are used to move a load.
  • The transfer can be nationally or internationally.
  • Maritime, air or land transport vehicles can be used in combination or of the same type.
  • You can move materials or goods using a single contract.
  • Distances can be long or short.
  • Cargo tracking through satellite systems.

Types of multimodal transport

Among the most used types of multimodals transport we can mention:

  • Short sea shipping : This type of multimodals transport occurs because large cargo ships cannot receive merchandise in all small ports. In this sense, it is necessary for the merchandise to be transferred in mini cargo ships so that it can arrive from an oceanic port to a small port. This type of vessel is called feeder or “feeder” busques. In this type of transport, multimodality includes the transfer of mini-ships to large ships.
  • Land transport (road / rail ): This class includes the transfer of cargo between two types of transport, in this case transport by road to reach warehouses or distribution centers and rail transport to move long distances more quickly and without the obstacles of land traffic.

Importance of multimodal transport

Multimodal transport implies that for the transfer of goods, it is necessary to resort to different means of transport in order for them to reach their final destination, which is previously scheduled by contract. Thus, the realization of the same shipment may require different modes of transport such as boat, truck or train and all this, through a single contract .

This possibility makes this whole process simpler on a commercial level without the need to resort to intermediaries. There lies in large part the importance of multimodals transport.

Another important aspect of multimodal transport is that its means of transport are adapted to short or long distances depending on the type of cargo and its destination . In this sense, there are large or small transports that can be used in a multimodal transfer so that the cargo can leave or reach its destination by combining land freight vehicles by road to take the merchandise from the warehouse to the port or railway terminal and others of greater size like ships or railways that can move more cargo over long distances.

Advantages of multimodal transport

Among the advantages offered by multimodal transport, the following can be mentioned:

  • The reduction of cargo handling times.
  • Decrease in costs per vehicle.
  • Decrease in customs controls.
  • Only one contract is made.
  • Cargo tracking through satellite systems.
  • Low rates of theft or damage to cargo that favor insurance premium costs abroad.


Among the disadvantages of this service the following can be identified:

  • Some countries do not have the infrastructure for the development of multimodal transport.
  • There may be inconveniences between the change of transport due to lack of coordination between the carriers and this can delay the shipment.
  • There is no international regulation ratified by all countries and this can cause legal conflicts when moving the merchandise in international spaces.

Example of multimodal transport

An example of multimodal transport can be maritime freight . Since a cargo ship cannot enter small ports due to its size to receive the merchandise. Then they proceed to make use of rail or road transport to the cargo loading ports that have their own rail terminal. This is done through a single contract that will include the rail or road transfer plus the transfer by ship and the transfers of the merchandise from one transport to another.

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