When planning to ship your goods, you’ll often encounter two terms: intermodal and multimodal transport. You may wonder what they differ in. So in this post, I will introduce them in detail and help you better choose your shipping.

What is intermodal transport?

Intermodal transport means your goods are delivered by at least 2 methods (e.g. rail, ship, aircraft, and truck) from one place to another place. In this mode, each shipping method is operated by a separate transport service provider, and each stage requires an individual contract. That is to say, you need to sign at least 2 shipping contracts.

Intermodal transport example

Suppose you deliver your goods from Ningbo to New York. You first appoint a freight forwarder to ship it from Ningbo port to New York port by sea, and then appoint a local logistics provider to ship it from New York port to your door by truck. This is intermodal transport.

What is multimodal transport?

Similar to intermodal transport, multimodal transport also needs at least 2 modes of transportation for goods shipping. The difference is that its entire shipping process is only in charge of one transport service provider. He would arrange various transportation methods to deliver the goods to your designated location. You just sign the contract with him, and he would be responsible for coordinating all transportation modes.

Multimodal transport example

Suppose you ship your cargo from Ningbo to Canada, and just appoint one freight forwarder to deliver it to your door. In the whole shipping process, the forwarder arranges air shipping and land freight as you require. This is multimodal transport.

Differences between intermodal and multimodal transport

Number of people you contact

In intermodal transportation, there is more than one responsible entity for successfully delivering the cargo. And they are responsible for different shipping stages. This method requires you to communicate with different people about shipping methods, time, fees, and buying cargo insurance if needed.

If you find something wrong with your goods after receiving them, it takes a lot of time and effort to find out which part has the problem. And then you can contact the relevant shipping service providers to solve problems.

In multimodal transportation, one transport service provider takes full responsibility from the point of pick-up to the final destination and ensures delivery is completed. You just need to contact him about how to combine the shipping methods for efficient transportation. If there is a transportation problem or damaged goods, you only need to communicate with him, which makes negotiations much easier.

No matter which transport you choose, you should find a reliable freight forwarder to arrange your shipping. If you don’t have familiar forwarders, you can ask your supplier, like Jingsourcing, for a reliable one.


In intermodal transport, you need to sign contracts with many shipping service providers. Because the destinations they deliver are different, they will issue documents for the shipping parts they are responsible for. For example, if you appoint 2 forwarders to ship the same cargo by sea and truck respectively, one will issue you the bill of lading, and the other issues the receipt of land transport.

In multimodal transport, because of only one shipping service provider, you just need to sign a shipping contract with him. Suppose he arranges sea freight and land transport to your designated place, he will issue the bill of lading and the receipt for the final destination.

Intermodal vs multimodal: which is better?

Both intermodal and multimodal transport belong to combined transport, which improves shipping efficiency by combining single modes of transportation in a flexible way. When you choose intermodal transport, you should track the goods in real time to make better subsequent transportation arrangements.

Usually, people who are experienced in foreign trades choose intermodal transport, because they are familiar with all shipping routes and have long-term cooperative freight forwarders. Newbies choose multimodal transport in most cases, because it can reduce lots of communication costs when only one person is responsible for the whole shipping.

As a leading sourcing company, Jingsourcing can help you source premium quality goods and solve any problems that occur. We also have long-time cooperative freight forwarders, so we can offer you competitive prices to ship your goods to your door.

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