Barge

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Barges towed by a tugboat on the River Thames in London, England, UK Barge on River Thames, London - Dec 2009.jpg
Barges towed by a tugboat on the River Thames in London, England, UK

A barge is a flat-bottomed ship, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and must be towed or pushed by towboats, canal barges or towed by draft animals on an adjacent towpath. Barges contended with the railway in the early Industrial Revolution, but were outcompeted in the carriage of high-value items due to the higher speed, falling costs and route flexibility of railways.

Ship Large buoyant watercraft

A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep waterways, carrying passengers or goods, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, research and fishing. Historically, a "ship" was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit. Ships are generally distinguished from boats, based on size, shape, load capacity, and tradition.

River Natural flowing watercourse

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are "run" in some parts of the United States, "burn" in Scotland and northeast England, and "beck" in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague.

Canal Man-made channel for water

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles.

Contents

Etymology

Barge carrying recycling material on Deule channel in Lambersart, France PenicheRecyclageFerrailles2008Deule2.jpg
Barge carrying recycling material on Deûle channel in Lambersart, France

Barge is attested from 1300, from Old French barge, from Vulgar Latin barga. The word originally could refer to any small boat; the modern meaning arose around 1480. Bark , "small ship", is attested from 1420, from Old French barque, from Vulgar Latin barca (400 AD). The more precise meaning "three-masted ship" arose in the 17th century, and often takes the French spelling for disambiguation. Both are probably derived from the Latin barica, from Ancient Greek : βάρις, translit.  báris, lit.  'Egyptian boat', from Coptic : ⲃⲁⲁⲣⲉbāri "small boat", hieroglyphic Egyptian

Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.

Vulgar Latin Non-standard Latin variety spoken by the people of Ancient Rome

Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris, also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance, was a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. It is distinct from Classical Latin, the standard and literary version of the language. Compared to Classical Latin, written documentation of Vulgar Latin appears less standardized. Works written in Latin during classical times and the earlier Middle Ages used prescribed Classical Latin rather than Vulgar Latin, with very few exceptions, thus Vulgar Latin had no official orthography of its own.

Barque type of sailing vessel with three or more masts

A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts having the fore- and mainmasts rigged square and only the mizzen rigged fore-and-aft.

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and similar ba-y-r for "basket-shaped boat". [1] By extension, the term "embark" literally means to board the kind of boat called a "barque".

The long pole used to maneuver or propel a barge has given rise to the saying "I wouldn't touch that [subject/thing] with a barge pole." [2]

Types

Car float unpowered barge with rail tracks mounted on its deck

A railroad car float or rail barge is an unpowered barge with rail tracks mounted on its deck. It is used to move railroad cars across water obstacles, or to locations they could not otherwise go, and is towed by a tugboat or pushed by a towboat. As such, the car float is a specialised form of the lighter, as opposed to a train ferry, which is self-powered.

Dutch barge

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Dry bulk cargo barge

A dry bulk cargo barge is a barge designed to carry freight such as coal, finished steel or its ingredients, grain, sand or gravel, or similar materials. Barges are usually constructed of steel. They have an outer hull, an internal void that is fitted with heavy struts and cross braces or scantlings, and an internal cargo box. The outer hull of a barge can come in one of two configurations. A rake barge has a curved bow to provide less resistance when being pushed and is usually placed at the head of the tow. A box barge is usually placed in the center and rear of the tow and can hold more cargo.

On the British canal system, the term 'barge' is used to describe a boat wider than a narrowboat (seven feet or 2.1 metres), and the people who move barges are often known as lightermen. On the UK canal system, boats wider than seven feet (2.1 m) are often referred to as widebeam. In the United States, deckhands perform the labor and are supervised by a leadman or the mate. The captain and pilot steer the towboat, which pushes one or more barges held together with rigging, collectively called 'the tow'. The crew live aboard the towboat as it travels along the inland river system or the intracoastal waterways. These towboats travel between ports and are also called line-haul boats. [3]

Narrowboat type of English boat, designed to fit in narrow canals

A narrowboat or narrow boat is a boat of a distinctive design, made to fit the narrow canals of the United Kingdom.

Poles are used on barges to fend off the barge as it nears other vessels or a wharf. These are often called 'pike poles'.

Modern use

Towboat pushing a barge on the Chicago River Chicago River towboat and barge 080405.jpg
Towboat pushing a barge on the Chicago River

Barges are used today for low-value bulk items, as the cost of hauling goods by barge is very low. Barges are also used for very heavy or bulky items; a typical American barge measures 195 by 35 feet (59.4 m × 10.7 m), and can carry up to about 1,500 short tons (1,400 t) of cargo. The most common European barge measures 251 by 37 feet (76.5 m × 11.4 m) and can carry up to about 2,450 tonnes (2,700 short tons).

As an example, on June 26, 2006, a 565-short-ton (513 t) catalytic cracking unit reactor was shipped by barge from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma to a refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Extremely large objects are normally shipped in sections and assembled onsite, but shipping an assembled unit reduced costs and avoided reliance on construction labor at the delivery site (which in this case was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina). Of the reactor's 700-mile (1,100 km) journey, only about 40 miles (64 km) were traveled overland, from the final port to the refinery.

Self-propelled barges may be used as such when traveling downstream or upstream in placid waters; they are operated as an unpowered barge, with the assistance of a tugboat, when traveling upstream in faster waters. Canal barges are usually made for the particular canal in which they will operate.

Many barges, primarily Dutch barges, which were originally designed for carrying cargo along the canals of Europe, are no longer large enough to compete in this industry with larger newer vessels. Many of these barges have been renovated and are now used as luxury hotel barges carrying holidaymakers along the same canals on which they once carried grain or coal.

Towed or otherwise unpowered barges in the United States

Multiple barges pushed around a tight bend on the Cumberland River Cumberland River barge traffic.jpg
Multiple barges pushed around a tight bend on the Cumberland River

In primitive regions today and in all pre-development (lacking highways or railways) regions worldwide in times before industrial development and highways, barges were the predominant and most efficient means of inland transportation in many regions. This holds true today, for many areas of the world.

In such pre-industrialized, or poorly developed infrastructure regions, many barges are purpose-designed to be powered on waterways by long slender poles – thereby becoming known on American waterways as poleboats as the extensive west of North America was settled using the vast tributary river systems of the Mississippi drainage basin. Poleboats use muscle power of "walkers" along the sides of the craft pushing a pole against the streambed, canal or lake bottom to move the vessel where desired. In settling the American west it was generally faster to navigate downriver from Brownsville, Pennsylvania, to the Ohio River confluence with the Mississippi and then pole upriver against the current to St. Louis than to travel overland on the rare primitive dirt roads for many decades after the American Revolution.

Once the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads reached Chicago, that time dynamic changed, and American poleboats became less common, relegated to smaller rivers and more remote streams. On the Mississippi riverine system today, including that of other sheltered waterways, industrial barge trafficking in bulk raw materials such as coal, coke, timber, iron ore and other minerals is extremely common; in the developed world using huge cargo barges that connect in groups and trains-of-barges in ways that allow cargo volumes and weights considerably greater than those used by pioneers of modern barge systems and methods in the Victorian era.

Towboat Herbert P. Brake of New York pushes a new barge east on the Erie Canal in Fairport, New York, United States The tugboat, Herbert P. Brake.jpg
Towboat Herbert P. Brake of New York pushes a new barge east on the Erie Canal in Fairport, New York, United States

Such barges need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats. Canal barges, towed by draft animals on a waterway adjacent towpath were of fundamental importance in the early Industrial Revolution, whose major early engineering projects were efforts to build viaducts, aqueducts and especially canals to fuel and feed raw materials to nascent factories in the early industrial takeoff (18th century) and take their goods to ports and cities for distribution.

The barge and canal system contended favourably with the railways in the early Industrial Revolution before around the 1850s1860s; for example, the Erie Canal in New York state is credited by economic historians with giving the growth boost needed for New York City to eclipse Philadelphia as America's largest port and city – but such canal systems with their locks, need for maintenance and dredging, pumps and sanitary issues were eventually outcompeted in the carriage of high-value items by the railways due to the higher speed, falling costs and route flexibility of rail transport. Barge and canal systems were nonetheless of great, perhaps even primary, economic importance until after the First World War in Europe, particularly in the more developed nations of the Low Countries, France, Germany and especially Great Britain which more or less made the system characteristically its own.

Nowadays, custom built special purpose equipment called modular barges are extensively used in surveying, mapping, laying and burial of subsea optic fibre cables worldwide and other support services.

See also

Related Research Articles

Maritime transport transportation on water surface or through water entity, using watercrafts

Maritime transport, fluvial transport, or more generally waterborne transport is the transport of people (passengers) or goods (cargo) via waterways. Freight transport by sea has been widely used throughout recorded history. The advent of aviation has diminished the importance of sea travel for passengers, though it is still popular for short trips and pleasure cruises. Transport by water is cheaper than transport by air, despite fluctuating exchange rates and a fee placed on top of freighting charges for carrier companies known as the currency adjustment factor (CAF).

History of the British canal system

The British canal system of water transport played a vital role in the United Kingdom's Industrial Revolution at a time when roads were only just emerging from the medieval mud and long trains of packhorses were the only means of "mass" transit by road of raw materials and finished products. The UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network.

Chesapeake & Delaware Canal canal in Delaware, United States of America

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is a 14-mile (22.5 km)-long, 450-foot (137.2 m)-wide and 35-foot (10.7 m)-deep ship canal that connects the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay in the states of Delaware and Maryland in the United States. The C&D Canal is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District. The project office in Chesapeake City, Maryland, is also the site of the C&D Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse. In Delaware, the canal is itself a significant landmark and cultural boundary, considered a divide between the urbanized northern portion of the state and the rural southern portion, and demarcates an unofficial northern limit to the Delmarva Peninsula.

Pusher (boat) boat designed for pushing barges or car floats

A pusher, pusher craft, pusher boat, pusher tug, or towboat, is a boat designed for pushing barges or car floats. In the United States, the industries that use these vessels refer to them as towboats. These vessels are characterized by a square bow, a shallow draft, and typically have knees, which are large plates mounted to the bow for pushing barges of various heights. These boats usually operate on rivers and inland waterways. Multiple barges lashed together, or a boat and any barges lashed to it, are referred to as a "tow" and can have dozens of barges. Many of these vessels, especially the long distances, or long haul boats, include living quarters for the crew.

Horse-drawn boat boat operating on a canal, pulled by a horse walking beside the canal on a towpath

A horse-drawn boat or tow-boat is a historic boat operating on a canal, pulled by a horse walking beside the canal on a towpath.

Riverboat watercraft designed for inland navigation

A riverboat is a watercraft designed for inland navigation on lakes, rivers, and artificial waterways. They are generally equipped and outfitted as work boats in one of the carrying trades, for freight or people transport, including luxury units constructed for entertainment enterprises, such as lake or harbour tour boats. As larger water craft, virtually all riverboats are especially designed and constructed, or alternatively, constructed with special-purpose features that optimizes them as riverine or lake service craft, for instance, dredgers, survey boats, fisheries management craft, fireboats and law enforcement patrol craft.

Merchant ship civilian boat or ship that transports cargo or carries passengers for hire

A merchant ship, merchant vessel, trading vessel, or merchantman is a watercraft that transports cargo or carries passengers for hire. This is in contrast to pleasure craft, which are used for personal recreation, and naval ships, which are used for military purposes.

Canals of the United Kingdom

The canals of the United Kingdom are a major part of the network of inland waterways in the United Kingdom. They have a colourful history, from use for irrigation and transport, through becoming the focus of the Industrial Revolution, to today's role of recreational boating. Despite a period of abandonment, today the canal system in the United Kingdom is again in increasing use, with abandoned and derelict canals being reopened, and the construction of some new routes. Most canals in England and Wales are maintained by the Canal & River Trust, previously British Waterways, but a minority of canals are privately owned.

Lake freighter ship type

Lake freighters, or lakers, are bulk carrier vessels that ply the Great Lakes of North America. These vessels are traditionally called boats, although classified as ships.

Lighter aboard ship vessel which can carry smaller lighters (barge vessels)

The lighter aboard ship (LASH) system refers to the practice of loading barges (lighters) aboard a bigger vessel for transport. It was developed in response to a need to transport lighters, a type of unpowered barge, between inland waterways separated by open seas. Lighters are typically towed or pushed around harbors, canals or rivers and cannot be relocated under their own power. The carrier ships are known variously as LASH carriers, barge carriers, kangaroo ships or lighter transport ships.

Inland waterways of the United States

The inland waterways of the United States include more than 25,000 mi (40,000 km) of navigable waters. Much of the commercially important waterways of the United States consist of the Mississippi River System—the Mississippi River and connecting waterways.

The Nicaraguan Ecocanal is a proposed project in Nicaragua to build a shallow-draft waterway connecting the inland Lake Nicaragua with the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River in the south of the country. The main aim of the waterway is to provide a maritime alternative to the lengthy overland journeys that are presently required to import and export containerised cargoes through the ports of Puerto Cortes in Honduras and Puerto Limon in Costa Rica.

The Waterways Journal Weekly is the news journal of record for the towing and barge industry on the inland waterways of the United States, chiefly the watershed of the Mississippi River and its tributaries and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Known as The Riverman’s Bible, the periodical has been published continuously from St. Louis, Missouri, since 1887. Published by H. Nelson Spencer, it is the only American maritime publication that focuses exclusively on the inland waterways of the United States, and is one of the few remaining family-owned, advertiser-supported trade weeklies of any description.

Steamboats of the Mississippi type of boats used in the 19th century for the Mississippi river

Steamboats played a major role in the 19th-century development of the Mississippi River and its tributaries by allowing the practical large-scale transport of passengers and freight both up- and down-river. Using steam power, riverboats were developed during that time which could navigate in shallow waters as well as upriver against strong currents. After the development of railroads, passenger traffic gradually switched to this faster form of transportation, but steamboats continued to serve Mississippi River commerce into the early 20th century.

Trent Navigation Company British river navigation company between 1783-1940

The Trent Navigation Company existed from 1783 to 1940. It was responsible for control of navigation on the River Trent in England.

Ramped cargo lighter

The ramped cargo lighter or RCL was a landing craft used in many parts of the world during the Second World War. Designed in Canada and manufactured in Vancouver and Toronto, its primary purpose was lighterage work following assault landings. The RCL also provided water transport in coastal operations. These lighters were built in sections to simplify shipping and assembled in the theatre of operations.

SB <i>Centaur</i>

SB Centaur is a wooden Thames sailing barge, built in Harwich, Essex, England in 1895. She was used to carry various cargoes, mainly grain, for the next 60 years. During the First World War she carried food and coal to the French Channel ports. During the Second World War Centaur was damaged when sailing to assist with the Dunkirk Evacuation. She did war work for the duration of the conflict.

References

  1. An Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary: with an index of English words by Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge from Google Books
  2. Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill (1885). H. W. Lucy (ed.). Speeches of Lord Randolph Churchill. ...never was land so easily and cheaply in the grasp of the capitalist as it is now, if he chose to put out his hand, and yet there is not a capitalist in his senses who would touch it with a barge pole.
  3. Maritime law center, Non-self propelled vessels