A barge is a type of vessel typically used for transporting cargo. They are not independent, but “floating” vessels that are towed along other vessels. Barges have been navigating our waters just like semi-trucks navigate our highways and interstates. They’re usually found in smaller waters like rivers, lakes, or canals, but you can mostly now find them in seaports. Much like a raft, the bottom half of a barge is flat-shaped.
Freight routes: river barges
They’re usually about 200 feet long and 35 feet wide. The purpose of this flat bottom ensures that the carrying capacity has the ability to haul and transfer tremendously heavy loads.
Uses of barges
River barges have been around since the Industrial Revolution, but their use has seen quite a decline over recent years. The reason that they haven’t experienced complete
extinction is due to the fact that they can successfully transport bulk items at a lower cost than other modes of transportation. They are also available in many different sizes depending on the need. Smaller loads can be around 1400 tons with larger loads being all the way up to 2700 tons. This type of capacity is practically unmatched.
Types of River Barges
According to the American Waterway Operators Association, there are four basic types of river barges in the United States. The first is an open dry cargo barge. These sit at about 195 feet in length and can hold up to 1,530 tons. Coal, steel, ore, sand, gravel, and lumbar are usually what you’ll find being transported on these. Next, we have the inland liquid cargo tank barge that sits at 297 feet long and can hold up to one million gallons.
Petroleum products, fertilizer, and chemicals are what get carried on these guys. The covered dry cargo barge is about the same size as the open dry cargo barge (around 195 feet) but is used for other products that need to stay covered (as the name suggests). These can be products like grain, soybeans, coffee, and paper products. The coastal barge is 550 feet in length and can hold 225,000 barrels. These are used in coastal service to transport petroleum and their byproducts, as well as NASA fuel tanks. These deeper vessels can maintain better stability in ocean waters than the others.
Large capacity for a small price
12,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways are what make up the U.S. Inland Waterway System. These waterways are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This maintenance consists of dredging and channel maintenance. Locks and dams are also repaired and maintained regularly being that they are so old. For example, on the Mississippi River, some of these locks and dams are old enough that they are no longer adequate for any newer or heavier barges.
Despite this, the barges provide the U.S. Supply Chain with immense capacity at an incredibly low cost. For reference, one 15-barge tow is equivalent to 1,050 trucks. According to IHS Markit
, rates for barges are almost 54% lower than rail and 95% lower than trucks. They stand only second to pipelines in being the most economical transportation mode. Furthermore, they are the safest mode with fewer spills and accidents. Traffic flow is easy as waterways typically stay open and uncongested. Pollution and noise also stay at a minimum. All and all, barges have many advantages. Even in our modern world.
The decline of barges
Although there are many advantages to the barge, one of the main reasons for its decline is its turtle pace. Traffic is slow and in an increasingly demanding society, it just doesn’t work like it once did. A trip from New Orleans to Cairo, IL can take eight full days. There’s no way around the fact that it’s one of the slowest means of transportation. With this in mind, the barge movement is now considered an alternative means of transporting goods in the states.
An important role in transportation
Barges have played an essential role in the transportation of goods for centuries and continue to play a role in the supply chain of the modern-day. Even with their general decline and disadvantage of speed, they are a low-cost/high capacity means of transportation compared to other modes of transportation.
The Junction LLC | Truckload Shipping
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