Multimodal and Intermodal Shipping: Which One’s Right for Your Business?

When shipping goods overseas, you may come across different types of freight forwarding methods—the multimodal and intermodal shipping. Obtaining the best routing is not the same as hiring a shipping company with the cheapest rate. Using a combination of different forms of carriers is oftentimes better to achieving the best shipping rate. However, keep in mind that it may require more involvement on your part as the shipper of the goods. Alternatively, a single form of transportation for shipment of goods may provide better routing and will likely require lesser paper works and logistics coordination.

When using a freight forwarder for local or international freight, understanding the difference of multimodal and intermodal shipping and communicating your requirements properly will help a lot to avoid misunderstandings and minimize problems along the way. Here, let’s take a look at the differences between multimodal shipping and intermodal shipping.

Multimodal Shipping

Multimodal shipping is defined as the transportation of cargo under a single contract, but is delivered via two or more means of transport. However, the different forms of transport are handled by a carrier that would operate under a single contract. The entire journey of the shipment involves only one carrier who is also often called the multimodal operator. However, this operator does not have its own means of shipping transportation. He or she is only responsible in ensuring that the shipping is successful through the different modes of transport (i.e. sea freight, air freight, local freight).

Multimodal shipping can be set up in several ways. You can go with a cargo transportation in Singapore that can provide all modes of transport. Another way is to hire an agent who will do all the negotiations for you, while you only have one contract to take care of. The said agent will also be the one to handle delays and coordination of loading and unloading of goods.

This method of shipping provides a couple of benefits, with the first being less of a burden for you. If you opt for this shipping method, you have the logistics company who will handle the delays in any of the transport modes. Multimodal shipping is like a one-stop service for you—everything is handled by a single operator, giving you peace of mind and ease of work since you only have one person to call to if you need updates of your shipment from any mode of transport.

Other advantages of multimodal shipping:

a. Efficiency of shipment tracking to monitor status of shipped goods
b. Access to remote areas around the globe with liability of shipment with one carrier
c. Faster delivery time
d. Minimized logistics coordination and expenses

Intermodal Shipping

If multimodal means shipping of goods using different transport modes under one contract, intermodal is shipping of goods through different means handled by different operators, each with its own contracts. While this method calls for more of your involvement as the shipper of the goods, it is said to provide better security since you will be hands-on during the entire journey of the shipment.

When using this method of shipping, each carrier will be handled by a separate agent or logistics company. This means you will be working on different contracts for each carrier of your shipment. You will be the one to handle coordination of carrier delays, as one freight forwarder may not be aware of the delays that the other freight might be having.

One of the best things, however, is that you can negotiate your terms for the freight forwarding services. You are able to customize each contract to fit your needs, especially if shipping cost is a major consideration.

Other advantages of intermodal shipping:

a. You can pick your own carriers to take advantage of lower shipping rates
b. Gain more flexibility in handling the loading and unloading of goods at the ports
c. You have more access to equipment and have better control in selection of transport schedule

Which one is best for you?

Deciding whether to go for multimodal shipping or intermodal shipping greatly depends on the shipper’s requirements, such as your delivery time, the destination of the goods and the shipping costs. When it comes to the logistics of a shipment, multimodal freight forwarding is better in terms of convenience as you do not have to contact every single carrier to monitor the status of your shipment. However, the ease of work would mean that you might have to pay more on the logistics company.

Alternatively, if the shipping’s overall cost is one of your major priority, you are likely able to negotiate prices for the logistics services of intermodal shipping. You can score cheaper rates, but be prepared to allocate more time and effort to personally handle the air freight and sea freight of your goods to ensure they will reach the destination on time. This means you need to handle coordination with one shipping company to the other to make sure that your goods will reach its second transport on time.

In general, these methods of transport are here to provide you with options depending on your needs. Each mode of transport has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Prioritizing your shipping requirements, understanding the shipping process and comparing costs between several freight forwarding companies here in Singapore are all important when deciding which logistics company to work with and choosing the right mode of transportation of your goods.