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All You Need To Know About Intermodal Transportation

All You Need To Know About Intermodal Transportation

Ever heard about intermodal transportation? Whether you have or not, read on to learn more.

This transportation involves the movement of goods from one place to another by means of two or more carriers/modes. Good news for users because this method is not new in the market. In fact, it has been in existence for over two centuries now. This transportation mode employs the use of specialized containers which are made of steel for durability. Containers used are of various types which include:

Standard container

These containers have been designed to carry various dry goods. Owing to its specialization, standard containers are also known as dry containers. Cargos that can be carried include dry food, books, toys, bags, electronics, mobile phones and other accessories.

Open-top containers

Just as it has been named, these containers have no roofing. It is open at the top to accommodate larger goods that cannot be carried by the standard container. Large machineries can be carried with these containers.

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Flat containers

These containers are also open at the top and sides. Similar to open-top containers they are designed to carry heavy loads. Additionally, they are suitable for goods that require loading/offloading from the top or sides such as pipes.

Tank containers

When you hear the word tank, what comes to mind? If you are thinking water tanks, then you are on the right track. Tank containers are specialized for shipping liquids such as oil. They are designed to ensure no spillage occurs.


This is also known as refrigerated containers. If you are planning to transport temperature controlled cargo then this is what will be on offer. Goods carried in this container are stored around or lower than freezing point.

Now coming to the transportation channels, there are three main intermodal terminals involved here:

Port terminals

This terminal entails shipment activities. It is the most conducive terminal with regards to traffic, capital as well as space. Port terminal provides a bridge between maritime and inland channels of circulation.

Rail terminals

They are linked with the port terminals either through on-dock or near-dock rail facility. Near-dock facilities provide more space and less traffic. Rail terminals provide maritime/rail interface. How? When goods are brought to the port, they are transported by train and distributed to other inland destinations.

Distribution centers

This marks as the third terminal available. At these centers value addition services take place while the trans-modal operations are conducted through trucking. Function of distribution centers include:


When containers are offloaded they are stored at these centers which thus serve as go-downs until they are distributed.


This is the process by which cargo is transferred from the containers they were shipped in with to domestic containers. Once this is done, you can now start anticipating for your coming goods.


At the distribution center, your bound cargo undergoes sorting which are then loaded to be transported to the final destination.

Now that you have a rough idea of what intermodal transportation entails, are you ready to try it out?

Brian Brown

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