Rarely does an international shipment use a single mode of transportation. It is common to combine multiple modes - such as road, rail, ship, road, etc.
In the early days, if you worked for a shipping line all you worried was about the international shipping part of the shipment. That was the most difficult part of the shipment, and you sort of assumed that the rest was too trivial to bother about too much. It would mostly take care of itself - albeit with minor hiccups and cost blow-outs here and there.
With containerization, all that changed dramatically. Suddenly the two ends become more important because it took special rigs to take the containers to their end destinations and unload and empty them. Having done that, the empty container had to be taken back to the empties depot and off-hired before the demurrage time was over.
Many companies and countries still struggle with that part of the overall shipment. Moreover there are far too many options and some of them can cost a lot if you are not careful. In addition, the cost of errors or delays can all add up to a substantial sum - sometimes much more than the cost of the international shipment itself.
Everytime the mode changes, the key identifiers of the shipment change at the same time. On the rail it is the rail wagon. On the ship it is the shipping container. The cost of shipments are very different, and performance criteria and benchmarks differ by modes.
It is an art form to configure a multi-modal shipment so that it minimised the costs, minimises the time takes, maximises the product freshness and care, and takes care of all the restrictions and regulations that apply to any particular shipment.
Algorithms and real time data are both critical, as is the operator knowledge in configuring the shipments.
That is why multi-modal, or intermodal shipments can become a big deal.