Source: Rodrigue and Hatch (2009).
Types of Intermodal Terminals
There are three major types of intermodal terminals each having their
own locational and equipment requirements:
- Port terminals. They are the most substantial intermodal
terminals in terms of traffic, space consumption and capital requirements.
A container sea terminal provides an interface between the
maritime and inland systems of circulation. The growth of long distance
maritime container shipping has also favored the emergence of
intermediate hub terminals, some having an offshore location.
Their purpose is mainly to transship containers from one shipping
network to the other and they essentially have little, if any, hinterland
connections. The terminal is used as a buffer while containers wait
to be loaded on another ship. The containerization of inland river
systems has led to the development of an array of barge terminals
linked with major deep sea terminals with scheduled barge services.
At the maritime container terminal, barges can either use regular
docking areas or have their own terminal facilities if congestion
is an issue. Although barge to barge terminal container services
are technically possible, they are not very common.
- Rail terminals. At the start of the inland intermodal
chain rail terminals are linked with port terminals. The fundamental
difference between an on-dock and a near-dock rail facility
is not necessary the distance from the terminal facilities, but
terminal clearance. While for an on-dock rail terminal containers
can be moved directly from the dock (or the storage areas) to a
railcar using the terminal's own equipment, accessing a near-dock
facility requires clearing the terminal's gate (delays), using the
local road system (congestion) and clearing the gate of the near-dock
rail terminal (delays). On dock terminals tend to be designed to
only handle containers on flatcars (COFC). Near-dock facilities tend to have more space
available and can thus play a significant role in the maritime
/ rail interface, particularly if they are combined with transloading
activities. The satellite terminal, the load center and the transmodal
terminal all qualify as a form of inland port and are commonly
designed to handle both COFC and trailers on flatcars (TOFC). For the satellite
terminal, it is mainly a facility located at a peripheral and
less congested site that often performs activities that have become
too expensive or space consuming for the maritime terminal. Rail
satellite terminals can be linked to maritime terminals through
rail shuttle or truck drayage (more common) services. A
center is a standard intermodal rail terminal servicing a regional
market area. If combined with a variety of logistical activities,
namely freight distribution centers, it can take the form of a freight
distribution cluster. The surge of inland long
distance containerized rail traffic also require transmodal (rail
to rail) operations as freight is moved from one rail network
to the other. This can be done by switch carriers or trucking containers
from one terminal to the other. Eventually, dedicated rail-to-rail
terminals are likely to emerge.
- Distribution centers. They represent a distinct category
of intermodal terminals performing an array of value added functions
to the freight, with transmodal operations dominantly supported
by trucking. Distribution centers can perform three major types
of function. A transloading facility mainly transfers the
contents of maritime containers into domestic containers or truckloads
(or vice-versa). It is common in North America to have three 40
foot maritime containers transferred into two 53 foot domestic
containers. Sometimes, shipments are palletized as part of the transloading
process since many containers are floor loaded.
is another significant function that commonly takes place in the
last segment of the retail supply chain. With very limited storage,
the contents of inbound loads are sorted and transloaded to their
final destinations. Warehousing is a standard function still
performed by a majority of distribution centers that act as buffers
and points of consolidation or deconsolidation within supply chains.