A barge is a flat bottomed, often unpowered cargo-carrying vehicle which may or may not have its own propulsion mechanism for the purpose of transporting goods. Primarily used by Inland water carriers, basic barges have open tops, but there are covered barges for both dry and liquid cargoes.
A barge has no hull, is often unpowered, and has all the navigational equipment on deck, always wide of beam. Barges are used mainly to carry bulk cargo. The most common are those that transport materials such as asphalt or lime stone cut from quarries. Barge is also referred to as a boat or ship though it lacks any form of propulsion beyond being pulled along by towboats known as tugs.
Smaller barges are more maneuverable since they can be turned around more easily on river corners where the larger
History of Barges:
The word ‘barge’ comes from the old French word meaning ‘to carry’. It has been used to describe all sorts of vessels – war ships, ferries and public water ways.
Barges are commonly found in most countries throughout the world, with India leading in it’s production (most likely because they need barges for transportation on river systems). They are also widely used by inland water carriers due to their cost efficiency. On average a 40 tonne barge costs around US$7000 to construct whereas a barge carrying the same load costs approximately US$26,000 to construct.
Primarily used by Inland water carriers, basic barges have open tops, but there are covered barges for both dry and liquid cargoes. Barges can be un-propelled (which need tugs) or towed behind another vessel (usually a tugboat). Due to its initial low cost of construction, it makes sense to use it again if possible. The most common method is for the barge to be ‘topped’ – to float high in the water with its cargo lashed securely so that only the top half is visible above water level. This means it requires less power than other types of vessels to carry goods across rivers and canals.
Barges are constructed with either end pointed (sharp end barge), with squared ends (square barge), or with rounded ends (round bilge) at both ends The latter two types use the flatter deck of a catamaran hull, while sharp end barges use the rounder deck of a monohull.
Various types of barges exist, each with their own distinct purpose for carrying goods. These include Barge Ferries (for carrying both passengers and freight), Hopper Barges (which are used to transport bulk cargo like coal) and Tank Barges (which carry liquids). Their construction differs depending on the use – an open barge suitable for transporting one type of cargo will not be suitable for transporting another due to structural integrity requirements. The most well known tankers are those that carried oil, but there are also barges which transport chemicals, wine, molasses – almost any liquid can be transported via a specially designed barge. They can also accommodate dry cargoes such as grain or ore.
It is also possible to find barges designed for carrying containers, however these are becoming more and more uncommon due to the ease of loading and unloading container ships – this makes it much easier to load and unload various types of cargo. Container barges often have a lower profile than other vessels which, while making them less visible at sea, can also cause problems in rivers and harbors.
Barges were widely used during the Second World War by both German and Allied forces as they could be transported through canals for rapid invasion movement from one country to another without having to deal with bridging issues. Currently they continue to be used in most parts of the world where inland waterways make up part of a transport system.