(shipping) (a) A flat-bottom marine vessel with or without propulsion, designed to carry dry or liquid bulk cargo or heavy loads, especially on inland waterways. (b) A marine vessel without propulsion, designed to carry equipment, supplies, cranes and support and accommodation bases in offshore drilling, or to lay submarine pipe. (c) A narrow, shallow-draft vessel, with or without propulsion, designed to carry cargo on canals and inland waterways. Note: small vessels with propulsion that transport cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.
A canal barge is designed to carry cargo on the specific canals or waterways it navigates (Mississippi River, Rhine River). At issue are the width and length of the waterway’s locks (if any) and the depth of the waterway.
Almost all barges are designed for superior cargo-carrying capacity. Freight barges can carry cargo inside the hull or on the deck. Barges are categorized by their physical size, the type of cargo they carry, and the waterways they can travel (i.e., oceans, coasts, lakes, bays, sounds, rivers).
U.S. river barges are usually flat-bottomed, rectangular in shape, without propulsion, and pushed or pulled by powerful tugboat-type vessels. U.S. / Canada Great Lakes barges are often full-sized ships that are long and narrow and have their own propulsion. European barges are long and narrow to fit through canals and inland waterways. They are also designed to ride low in the water. These barges have special low-draft propulsion systems.
Barges are designed to carry almost anything: crude oil, asphalt, clean oils, gasoline, chemicals, soy bean oil, corn oil, molasses, tallow, dry and dry bulk cargo (containers, lumber, steel, coal, construction equipment, grain, rice, sugar, sand, gravel, railcars, etc.).

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