Pgbarranca's Blog

March 21, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — by pgbarranca @ 4:23 pm


“Multi-modal simulation” describes the ability to simulate more than one type of traffic. All these types can interact mutually. In VISSIM the following types of traffic can be simulated

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Multimodal transport (also referred to as combined transport) is the transportation of goods under a single contract but performed with at least two different means of transport. I.e. the carrier (in a legal sense) is liable for the entire carriage even though it is performed with several different means of transport (e.g. rail, sea and road). The carrier, however, does not have to be in the possession of all of the means of transport and in practice usually is not. The carriage is often performed by using sub-carriers, in legal language often referred to as actual carriers. The carrier that is responsible for the entire carriage is referred to as a multimodal transport operator (MTO).

The U.N. Multimodal Convention (which has not entered into force and most likely never will) defines in article 1.1. multimodal transport as follows: “‘International multimodal transport’ means the carriage of goods by at least two different modes of transport on the basis of a multimodal transport contract from a place in one country at which the goods are taken in charge by the multimodal transport operator to a place designated for delivery situated in a different country.”


In practice freight forwarders have become important MTOs as they have moved away from their traditional role as mere agents for the sender and accepting a much wider liability as carriers. Also large sea-carriers have evolved into MTOs as they provide their customers with so-called door-to-door services, i.e. the sea carrier offers transport from the sender’s premises (situated somewhere inland) all the way to the receiver’s premises (also often situated somewhere inlands) instead of just offering more traditional tackle-to-tackle services or pier-to-pier services. MTOs that are not in the possession of a sea vessel (even though the transport includes a sea-leg), are in common law countries, in the United States especially, referred to as Non Vessel Operating Carriers (NVOC).

Historically multimodal transport developed in connection with the so called container revolution during the 1960s and ‘70s and today containerized transports are by far the most important multimodal consignments. One must however always bear in mind that multimodal transport is not equivalent to container transport and multimodal transport is just as feasible without any form of containers.

Legal impact of multimodal transport

From a legal point of view multimodal transport create several difficult problems. Currently unimodal transports are governed by different, often mandatory, international conventions. These conventions stipulate different basis for liability and different limitations of the liability for the carrier. Currently the solution to this problem has been the so called network principle. According to this the different conventions exists unchanged side by side and the carrier’s liability is defined according to where the breach of contract has occurred (e.g. where the goods have been damaged during the transport). However, problems tend to arise if the breach of contract is unlocalized.

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What is multimodal transport?

The most authoritative definition of the term “international multimodal transport” is provided in article 1 of the United Nations Convention on International Multimodal Transport of Goods 1980:

“ ‘International multimodal transport’ means the carriage of goods by at least two different modes of transport on the basis of a multimodal transport contract from a place in one country at which the goods are taken in charge by the multimodal transport operator to a place designated for delivery situated in a different country…”

This definition should be read in conjunction with the definition of the term “multimodal transport operator” (MTO) provided in article 1 of the MT Convention:

“ ‘Multimodal transport operator’ means any person who on his own behalf or through another person acting on his behalf concludes a multimodal transport contract and who acts as a principal, not as an agent or on behalf of the consignor or of the carriers participating in the multimodal transport operations, and who assumes responsibility for the performance of the contract.”

Thus, the main features of a multimodal transport are: the carriage of goods by two or more modes of transport, under one contract, one document and one responsible party (MTO) for the entire carriage, who might subcontract the performance of some, or all modes, of the carriage to other carriers. The terms “combined transport” and “intermodal transport” are often used interchageably to describe the carriage of goods by two or more modes of transport.

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Multimodal transport

Definition. Multimodal Transport is commonly known as referring to a transport operation that is carried out using different modes of transport and organised by a single operator. Multimodal Transport is also a legal concept strictly defined in the United Nations Convention on the International Transport of Goods and other international instruments, where the specified liability regime of the operator differs from those applicable in modal operations.

Overview. Whether seen from a legal point of view or from an operational perspective, Multimodal Transport is generally considered as the most efficient way of handling an international door to door transport operation. This is so because Multimodal Transport allows to combine in one voyage the specific advantages of each mode, such as the flexibility of road haulage, the larger capacity of railways and the lower costs of water transport in the best possible fashion. Multimodal Transport also offers the shipper the possibility to rely on a single counterpart, the multimodal transport operator who is the architect of the entire journey and only responsible party from pickup to delivery, rather than having to deal with each and every modal specialist of the transport chain.

While Multimodal Transport seems to offer only benefits to all parties, shippers and service providers, it is also very difficult to achieve. Multimodal Transport requires a thorough control over all the steps involved in international transport, including multiple storage and handling stages; this means extensive use of information technologies and carriers networks and regulatory frameworks that can provide freedom to plan and operate to carriers and reliable liablity regimes to customers. On top of that Multimodal transport needs to be competitive in markets where unimodal operations not only have been there for a long time but also are simpler to handle and, most of time, more cost effective.

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As a complementary matter:

Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (railship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and losses, and allows freight to be transported faster. Reduced costs versus over road trucking is the key benefit for intracontinental use. The negative, is that it takes longer then normal truck delivery would.

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