Barges: If you gaze upon the Mississippi River today, it’s hard not to spot one. Simply said, they provide a cost effective means to transport heavy loads far distances wherever waterways are available. Not only that, they’ve been around forever.
Rise of Barges
As the 19th century progressed, more and more barges could be seen traveling down American rivers – strengthened by the U.S. government’s increasingly large emphasis on developing its inland waterways through the construction of canals and modernization of ports.
While barges have often competed with the rail industry – they still provide a viable way to transport cargo even as other means of doing so have long become obsolete – means like packet boats, steamboats, and wagons.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the most heavily transported goods on U.S. inland waterways in 2007 were coal, petroleum, crude materials, along with food and farm products – most of which barges were responsible for carrying.
Barges can come in different sizes but on average, most are capable of hauling well over 1 thousand pounds of cargo. Some may be pulled by tug or towboats while others are self-propelled – allowing them to conveniently move both upstream and downstream.
As we already know, timber mats can be utilized to support the transportation of heavy construction equipment on land. In a similar manner, they can also be used to line barge decking – providing a sturdy protective barrier between a ship’s actual surface and heavy cargo that could otherwise hinder it – i.e. concrete pieces, heavy construction machinery, etc.
For the foreseeable future, U.S. inland waterways will continue to act as a busy interstate system for barge transportation – helping deliver products in bulk that are vital to supplying so many important industries – whether it’s agriculture, coal, oil, construction, or something else.