Distinguishing Between Barges & Vessels

Key Difference – Barge vs Vessel

The main difference between a barge and a vessel is their route. Vessels can be seen in both inland waterways and international waters, while barges are only seen in inland waterways. Vessel is a generic term used to refer to any watercraft of considerable size, while a barge is a long, large, flat-bottomed boat used to transport goods on inland waterways.

What is a Barge?

A barge is a long, spacious, flat-bottomed boat used to transport goods on inland waterways such as rivers and canals. Some barges are not powered and cannot propel themselves; they are towed or pushed by towboards. These are typically used to transport very heavy or bulky items, usually with lower values. Self-propelled barges are sometimes used when traveling downstream or upstream in placid waters, but when traveling upstream in faster waters, they are operated as unpowered barges with the assistance of a tugboat. Sometimes several barges can be held together with rigging and towed by a single tugboat, called a tow. The captain and the pilot of the barge steer the tugboat, and deckhands in the barge are supervised by the mate. The entire crew lives aboard the towboat as they move along the inland waterways.

What is a Vessel?

In the shipping industry, the word vessel refers to any watercraft used for the transportation of people or goods. Vessel can be used to describe a ship or a large boat and is used as a generic term for all types of craft designed for transportation on water, such as ships, boats, or submarines.

What is the difference between Barge and Vessel?


  • Barge: A long, spacious, flat-bottomed boat used to transport goods on inland waterways.
  • Vessel: A nautical term used to refer to watercraft of considerable size.


  • Barges are used on inland waterways such as rivers and canals.
  • Vessels are used in both oceans and inland waterways.


  • Barges transport bulky goods.
  • Vessels transport both people and goods.


  • Barges are towed by a tugboat.
  • Vessels are often self-propelled.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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