Modes of transport

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

Do you want to transport goods from one country to another? You can choose from various means of international transport. This article explains these modes and lists their pros and cons.

What is the right mode of transport for you?

Transporting your products can be done in several ways. What transport mode is right for you depends on various factors, such as the type of goods, the speed of the mode of transport, and the costs. Each mode requires a different transport document.

Land transport is a good option for small quantities of goods.


Shipping goods by road is:

  • Fast and flexible.
  • Lorries will often deliver the goods straight to your customer’s doorstep.


  • Traffic jams can cause significant delays.
  • Other EU member states or non-EU countries may have their own rules on road transport, such as driving bans for lorries

Rail transport is especially suitable for bulk goods such as coal and iron ore, as well as for cars and food.


  • It is cheaper than road transport,


  • Railroads and stations cannot be found everywhere. After goods have been transported by rail, they usually have to complete the final stretch by road. This costs both time and money.

You can also transport your products by ship. This mode of transport is suitable for containers and heavy goods, such as cars.


  • It is cheap.
  • It is sustainable.
  • Suitable for almost any product.


  • It takes more time than other modes of transport.
  • Not all cities and towns can easily be reached by water. You will still need to arrange road transport to get the goods to their destination. This takes longer and costs more. On top of that, it can be difficult to estimate the total shipping time.
  • It can be difficult to estimate the total shipping time.

Do you want to transport goods that spoil quickly, such as fruit or flowers? Then a plane is a suitable means of transport.


  • It is fast and
  • It covers long distances.
  • It is the safest mode of transport


  • Aircraft capacity is limited.
  • Costs are relatively high.
  • You will still need to transport the goods to their destination, for example by road. This means extra costs.

Transport agreement

You need different transport documents for different modes of transport. A transport document is an agreement between you and the transporter. Upon payment of the transport costs, the transporting company will arrange for the goods to be shipped to a specific location in accordance with specific terms and conditions. Find out more about transport documents.

Transporting goods yourself

Do you prefer to transport your goods yourself? This has advantages and disadvantages.


  • You are not dependent on a carrier.
  • You can install goods at your customer's premises or offer other services when you deliver the goods.


  • Own transport is often more expensive. A professional carrier transports goods from several customers (groupage). On the way back, a transporter often takes cargo. This makes transport cheaper.
  • You have to buy and maintain a truck or other means of transport yourself.

    Documents for own transport

    Do you transport the products yourself? You do not need a licence for own transport. But you must be able to show that you are transporting yourself. Read how to demonstrate own transport (in Dutch) on In countries outside the EU, to use your own transport you sometimes need a driving permit (ritmachtiging, in Dutch) from the National and International Road Transport Organisation (NIWO).

    Need help?

    Do you have little or no experience in international business? A forwarding agent can help you arrange the various phases of transportation, such as transport to and from the port, transfer at the terminal, clearing customs, and loading the goods onto a ship. Find out more about transporters and forwarding agents.

    Questions relating to this article?

    Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK