This paper analyses the modal shift from a primary road-based to coastal shipping-based freight distribution. A mathematical model is developed to optimize the coastal shipping route planning under a multimodal distribution scenario. The model is applied to a case study of the outbound automotive logistics in India. Exploratory insights on the enablers and challenges to adopting coastal shipping-based distribution are presented along with the route configuration and the level of modal shift achievable based on the model results. The results of the study suggest that the current business and regulatory environment is appropriate to achieve almost one-third shift to intermodal coastal shipping, although investments in infrastructure and substantial cost reductions in ship and port operations need to be implemented to ensure further modal shift. This article is a revised and expanded version of a paper entitled Enhancing the role of coastal shipping in finished vehicle distribution—a viability study presented at The International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME) Conference, Kyoto, Japan; 27–30 June 2017.