5 Important Differences Between a Barge & a Ship


Different Types of Barges Used in the Shipping World

Globalisation has provided momentum to international trade which is on the persistent rise. Global trade requires multiple categories of carriers to transport, load and unload the cargo. All these carriers help in facilitating the smooth flow of trade from seas, rivers and oceans to the assigned location. In general, one question that arises in the mind of shipping enthusiasts is that “what is the difference between a barge and a ship?”. To understand the fundamental difference between ship and barge, one has to see for what purposes these vessels are being used. Then only one can easily infer the distinction in the meaning of ship and barge. The development of global trade has its implications on the use of ships and barges for a specific purpose.

Comprehending the Basic distinction Between a Ship and a Barge

Reasonably, there is a huge distinction between a ship and barge’s meaning in context to various aspects. If you want to understand the distinction in one sentence, that’s- technically all barges can be ships but all ships cannot be called barges. Let’s comprehend the crucial common points of difference between barge’s meaning and ship are being followed:


A ship is a generic term for any type of watercraft having a considerable size that is being used for carrying passengers and goods or support various purposes, such as research, defence and fishing. On the contrary, a barge is an extended, large, flat-bottomed vessel mainly used for transporting goods on inland waterways. So, technically a barge is a kind of ship and one can easily comprehend the basic difference between ship and barge.


Ship sail in both international waterways and inland water-bodies, whereas barges are particularly seen inland waterways only. Barges are generally assigned for the transportation of goods within a canal, a river, an estuary, or a creek. Barely any barge is seen sailing in the seas or oceans, whereas ships can be found in all sorts of water surfaces such as seas, oceans, rivers, canals, creeks, estuaries, etc.


Ships work as multi-purpose vessels are used to transport both people as well as goods, while barges are primarily used for transporting goods. The latter is raft-like structure designed primarily to increase the cargo-carrying capacity and additional bulk can be lugged and easily transferred.


Barges are mainly used to successfully transport material or goods in bulk quantity at low costs. It helps in transporting goods to ferryboats both in the port or sea. Whereas a ship is a multi-modal transportation vessel and can be used for various purposes like- transporting goods and people through oceans, seas, rivers or any other sufficiently deep waterways. Ships are the lifeline of international trades. Also, cruise ships can be used for destination outings.


Maneuverability is simply defined as the intrinsic ability of vessels to change their path or course freely, without any difficulties. Ships are manufactured with a self-propelling system that ensures smooth movement of the ship. Maneuvering a ship is comparatively simpler than the barges. The barge is generally propelled by the tugboat to which it is towed. Therefore, it is difficult to move barges freely, commonly it is towed with a ship and the movement changes accordingly.

So, the distinction can be easily comprehended between ship and barge appropriately. The usage of both vessels depends on the requirements and water channel. In the era of maritime trade, barges play a significant role in transporting heavy goods through inland water-channels. With help of innovative marine-barges, the goods carrying problems can be minimized. As per requirements, the best fitting barge can be utilized as an effective and efficient cargo carrier. Thereby, ensuring the complete safety of goods and materials that are being transported.

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