Intermodalism as a Transportation Method

Intermodalism is a transportation method that is rapidly rising to become a vital component of the oceanic trade, making the role of ports within the intermodal transportation extremely significant. Even though, as a major link in the intermodal chain, ports face countless challenges, measures are in place to come up with network designs that meet modern-day demands. Unparalleled competition and upswing in novel developments in global trade have forced shippers to call for more than just superior transportation services.

As its main goal, intermodal transportation strives to ensure the seamless transfer of cargo between ship, rail, and truck (López-Navarro 2014). Intermodal transport is going to be more competitive on a daily basis, thus ensuring the transportation services to translate into reduced costs, improved transportation times, widespread coverage, and value-added frequencies and dependability will be the focus.

Therefore, ports play a significant role in the intermodal transport system. When ports enable a seamless flow of cargo to hinterlands, it prevents negative external effects that characterize the transport industry. Therefore, an effective network design ensures ports work efficiently because they optimize information flow, provide reliable and effective transportation services, and offer efficient interfaces between rail and track that reduces the time taken for cargo to reach a destination.

The advent of economic globalization and the emergence of new consumption behaviors have led to people producing far more than what they can consume, and, as a result, an increase in the volume of goods in transit and the traveled distances. The problem is inherent in the fact that all the motorized modes are harmful to the environment (López-Navarro 2014). This problem has demanded the choice of an optimal path used for the transfer of cargo from production to distribution centers and eventually to the consumer.

All these efforts are intended to optimize cost, time, and performance and reduce environmental degradation. Intermodal transportation impacts the environment in a considerable number of ways. According to López-Navarro (2014), the transport sector is a major source of noise and several air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrates. Air contamination with these pollutants is harmful to human health and crops. Moreover, pollutants destroy structures and ecosystems.

Even though intermodal transportation is an enhancement of the dominant road transport system, in terms of efficiency, the rise in greenhouse gas emissions continues to increase by the day.

The transportation industry accounts for over 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, principally carbon dioxide, which is one of the major causes of global warming, which has undesirable effects on the environment (López-Navarro 2014). Moreover, modal transportation consumes significant amounts of energy, which means rising levels of fuel exploration and excavation. As a result, the resources are becoming exhausted, and land degradation persists, which is an indicator of a lack of proper sustainability.

A green supply chain that is evident in intermodal transportation modeled with environmental impacts is effective in ensuring minimal environmental impacts. In intermodal transportation, freight frequently involves shifting from one mode to another between the original and final destination. During all these shifts, some transportation systems, such as roads, rail, air, and water transport systems, are utilized, and in one way or another, they cause harm to the environment.

However, according to López-Navarro (2014), the use of different transport modes in the intermodal transport system has advantages that outweigh the unimodal system, especially regarding environmental protection. The end goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the intermodal transport system meets these targets on two fronts. The intermodal system ensures improvement in efficiency in each mode to reduce the consumption of resources and emissions.

Secondly, due to the intermodal system, there is stimulation of combined use of modes to enhance the door-to-door transport chain and make it batter and more viable (López-Navarro 2014). Therefore, the combination of the advantages of each mode in intermodal transport ensures that the intermodal system is worthwhile, more efficient, and sustainable.


López-Navarro, M. A. (2014). Environmental Factors and Intermodal Freight Transportation: Analysis of the Decision Bases in the Case of Spanish Motorways of the Sea. Sustainability 6(3): 1544-1566. doi:10.3390/su6031544