What are Barges? Essential Facts About These Floating Freight Transporters

A ‘Barge’ transports freight. Barges are floating boats that other boats tow.

Like rafts, barges have flat bottoms. The major rationale for this shape is to increase cargo capacity and bulk movement.

Understanding Barges

The majority of barges are used to transport cargo. Most importantly, barges are not independent boats or vessels.

Other naval warships must pull them. Barges are usually utilized on rivers, lakes, or canals, however lately they are widely used at seaports.

Marine barges were used before the Industrial Revolution.

Barges were around before the industrial revolution.

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Before the Industrial Revolution in Europe, marine barges were the major mode of transport for merchandise over local waterways.

After the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam engine and trains, speed limits reduced the necessity for barges as cargo transports.

Europe employed the first barge to convey ferry cargo across tiny waterways. The Industrial Revolution brought the steam engine and trains, which greatly reduced the requirement for barges as commercial transporters.

Speed also contributed to barges’ demise.

Marine barges are still used today because they have become useful tools.

Barge Types

Barge Types
(Credit: KTU Shipyard)

Barges can be classified as follows:

  • A barracks barge is a houseboat. Cambodia, North India (Kashmir), Laos, Australia, and Canada have several houseboats. As the name implies, these barges are mostly utilized for residential reasons and appear beautiful when stationary in rivers and lakes.
  • As their name implies, dry bulk freight barges transport dry cargo. Dry cargo comprises food grains, sand, minerals like steel and coal, and other barge-transferable goods.
  • Barges Transporting liquids: These are the opposite of dry bulk cargo barges. These barges are ideal for transporting liquid petrochemicals, fertilizers, and other industrial chemicals.
  • Early in the 20th century, car-float barges transported rail carts. The rail-carts on the barges were like movable rail-sets. In some US states, car-float barges still operate.
  • Split Hopper Barge: Equipped with unloading gear, this barge transports dredged material. The split hopper barge is widely used in marine construction to discharge soil, sand, dredging material, etc. Self-propelled barges with hydraulic motors and cylinders can divide the hull. It loads and unloads construction material with a hydraulic split open hull.
  • Other Barges: Power and royal barges are different types of barges.
    Power barges are mobile power plants.
  • The Royal Barges Royal festivities are held aboard these infrequent boats. In monarchical countries like the UK, these work.

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Barge Sizes and Loads

Flat-bottomed vessels or barges come in various sizes for transporting. Various barges are named for their overall lengths in feet, such as 180, 230, etc.

Barges have varied load capacities depending on their length and the items they convey.

Barge with size 180 Feet

The 180-foot barge is the least desired option, capable of transporting up to 2000 Metric Tons of freight. The size requirements are: Sideboard length is 180ft (52.67m), breadth 50ft (15.24m), and ramp door width 5.00 m. Dead weight is 1500 tons and deck strength is 5 tons/square metre.

Barges up to 230 Feet

Barges up to 230 feet in size are considered small-medium and may transport up to 4000 Metric tons of cargo. The size requirements are: Sideboard length is 230ft (70m), Deck Load is 8.0 tons/square metre (uniformly distributed), and forward Sideboard is 2.44 m 8 feet.

Barge with size 270 Feet

Medium barges are typically 270 feet in size. These can transport 6000 MT of freight in one run. These barges are 82.3 m (270ft) long, 72ft wide, and 18ft deep. Their deck can support 7 tons/m2. Smitt Brackets value the 270-foot barge at 2387 tons.

Barge with size 300 Feet

The 300-foot barge is the most commonly utilized type. It is widely used since it can transport 8000 MT of goods in one run and has the highest load-bearing capacity of all barges. The typical 300-foot barge size is: Overall length: 91.440 m (300 ft); moulded breadth: 27.432m (90 ft); moulded depth: 6.096 m (20 ft); deadweight: 9700 tons (at Summer Draft); deck area: 2508 square meter; deck load: 25 tons/square meter.

Uses of  Barges

Uses of  Barges

The flat-bottomed freight transport barges are still utilized worldwide. Common marine barge uses:

  • Barges have declined but not disappeared.
  • Barges can deliver bulk products at lower costs than other modalities. Another reason they are used is that they come in different sizes (1400 tons to 2700 tons) and may be used to transport different cargoes.
  • In calm water upstream or downstream, self-propelled barges can deliver any cargo (dry or liquid).
    In most situations, a barge is designed for a specific water body and serves only that water body throughout its life.
  • If such barge is employed in a high-flow water body or upstream, it must be tugged or aided by a tug boat.
    The royal family can celebrate particular events on royal barges. The British kings still own these ships, which make exquisite event destinations.
  • Interstate grain and coal transport by barges works well. Compared to other modes, these barges save a lot on transportation.
  • Because one or more barges can be dragged to the tug boat in a single excursion, barges can efficiently and inexpensively transport greater amounts of material.

Difference Between Ships and Barges

All barges can be ships, but not all ships can be barges.

Common ship-barge differences are below.

  1. Ships and vessels are large watercraft. However, a barge is a huge flat-bottomed ship used for inland river freight.
  2. Route: Ships cruise in inland and international waterways, although barges are only seen inland. Barges convey products in rivers, canals, creeks, and estuaries. Barges are rare in seas, yet ships are everywhere: oceans, seas, rivers, canals, estuaries, creeks, etc.
  3. Convey: Ships convey products and people, while barges move solely things.
  4. Propelling: Ships self-propelling, whereas tugboats tow barges.
  5. Use: Barges convey commodities to ferryboats or port ships. A ship is multi-purpose and can be used for many things. Ships are utilized for international and national trade, cruises, and recreation.
  6. Manoeuvring: Ships are self-propelled, making them easier to move than barges. Because ships pull barges and trailers are harder to operate than vehicles alone.

From these differences, barges are flat-bottomed longships used to move commodities, while ships can be any vessel used to convey people and goods.

Barges are crucial to maritime technology. Marine barges can greatly reduce cargo-carrying issues. The various apparatus options help to solve the choice conundrum.

One can use the best barge as a cargo carrier to assure the safety of the goods and items conveyed.

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