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Types of Ships – Barge

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 3/18/2009

The maritime industry has both extremes of vessels within its framework. On one side there are highly sophisticated ships having all the hi-tech equipment while on the other side of humble powerless barges. Read this article to know more about barges and their utility.

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    In the true sense of the word it would be a misnomer to say that a barge is a kind of a ship. It would be more correct for the title to be Types of Marine Vessels – Barge. The reason for this is pretty simple as you will figure out yourself as you go through the article and see that this is typically different from the various other types of ships discussed here namely bulk carriers, container carriers, Roll On Roll Off Ships, Reefer ships, Tankers, Cruise Ships, Dynamic Position Vessels, and FPSOs.

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    What is a Barge?

    A barge is a large sized boat having a flat bottom and normally it does not have any propelling mechanism of its own (sometimes it may have it) so is towed by other machine propelled boats or tugs about which we will learn in a separate article. You might be thinking that if it does not have a propelling mechanism it is of not much practical use and must be outdated but it is not so.

    Let me give you a simple analogy though it may not be fully relevant but should suffice to explain what I am trying to say. Suppose you go to a supermarket and buy loads of stuff which is put in bags that you carry by hand. Now either you need a car of your own or if not you certainly can use a hand driven trolley to transport these bags at least upto your car (most stores do not allow trolleys to be taken home). So you see though the trolley (barge in our case) is much less sophisticated than a car (ship in our case), in that it does not have any engine or steering wheel but simply has a set of wheels and a mechanism for applying brakes, still it is very useful for temporary short term transport.

    Hope you got the idea and now you appreciate the usefulness of a barge. Just see the adjacent diagram which shows the structure of a typical barge. As you can see it is just like a trolley that you use in the superstore to transport goods without any sophisticated mechanisms. The various parts of the barge are labeled clearly on the diagram and you can make out the parts such as bulkheads, frames, stanchions and so forth. Barges are used to transport bulky cargoes or cargoes which are of not much value relatively speaking, and needless to say because of their design and features, barges are suited mostly for river and canal transportation as a cheaper alternative to using ships of smaller sizes.


    Barges also come in various types and can be classified into several types including but not limited to hopper barges, log barges, pleasure barges and so forth. It would not be feasible to discuss all these barges here but basically they are somewhat similar in their construction. For example a car float barge is used for the transportation of cars across a river and a pleasure barge serves the purpose of entertainment rather than carrying any freight.

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    Typical Barge

    A Barge
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    Image Credit

    Images of Barge Structure and Barge: McDonough Marine Service, Virginia, USA