Dry-Bulk Barges

Barges aren’t usually self-propelled and are tied to other barges into a configuration called a tow.  A tow can be several barges wide and many barges deep.  The exact configuration will depend on the locks through which a tow must travel and are pushed by a tow boat.

There are two types of dry bulk cargo barges: a rake barge and a box barge.  Rake barges have curved bows to provide less resistance when being pushed and are usually placed at the head of the tow.  A box barge is squared off and is usually placed behind a rake barge and is in the center or rear of the tow.  Box barges can typically hold more cargo.

Dry bulk cargo barges can have covers if the cargo is weather-sensitive (like cement or grain).  These are typically made of fiberglass or steel and can be lifted or rolled away for access to the cargo box.  If your operation requires covers, then there is a high likelihood that you put a person on the barge to secure the hook to the crane or to watch the loading/unloading, which means you likely need a gangway.  Be on the lookout for unsafe practices such as trying to jump from the dock to the barge, and make sure you’re providing your workforce safe passage.

There isn’t a typical access system for this type of vessel; the right solution will depend greatly on the dock composition, dock obstacles and restrictions, elevation of the barge, barge movements (up/down, left/right, in/out), and barge configuration.


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