What is a barge?

A barge is a non self-propelled flat bottom vessel used for transportation on oceans, rivers, and canals. While barges were once made of wood, today’s barges are all constructed of welded steel. While barges vary greatly in size and type, they typically range from 90′ – 400′ long and 30′ – 100′ wide. They are used to transport oversize materials and machinery, grain, coal, fuel, and many other commodities. Since barges are non self-propelled, they require tugboats or towboats to be moved.

Deck barge – a deck barge is a barge with a flat deck that is used both for transportation and construction support. The flat deck is capable of holding hundreds of tons of machinery such as cranes and excavators. The deck also serves as a platform for holding oversized objects such as bridge sections for coastwise or inland transportation. The inside of the deck barge is typically empty.

Hopper barge – a hopper barge is a barge like the one described above, except without a deck. Instead, it has a large hopper, or cargo bin, for transporting bulk items such as grain, coal, paper, stone, and other materials. They are commonly used in the dredging industry for holding dredge spoils that have been dredged from the bottom of a channel.

Tank barge – also called liquid cargo barges, these are deck barges that transport chemicals and fuels inside the barge. They transport anything from diesel fuel and gasoline to liquid fertilizer and liquid asphalt.

Barge Capacity – Barges are practical due to their ability to transport large quantities of goods in an economically and environmentally friendly manner. A typical 200′ barge has the capacity of 25 rail cars or 90 heavy trucks.

Tugboat – a tugboat is a steel boat used to tow and push barges and large ships. Tugboats are very powerful – most have horsepower in the range of 400 – 6,000 – and very maneuverable. While barges are generally un-manned, tugboats have a crew of 2-6 people. The tugboat is usually manned by a captain, a first mate, an engineer, and deck hands. While there are several different types of tugboats, the main designation is often between tugboats and towboats. A tugboat has a model, or rounded, bow and is used in harbors and oceans. A towboat has a large squared-off bow that enables it to push barges on rivers.


Through hard work, commitment to safety, and uncompromising business principles, Hughes Marine has continually adapted over the past 125 years to satisfy the evolving needs of the maritime industry, truly making us the "Clearing House for Marine Difficulties." Contact us to inquire about your next project.

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