Recent oil discoveries in Venezuela and West African countries coupled with increasing investments pertaining to the development of small ports and canal systems have fuelled the barge market globally. Many leading barge manufacturers have achieved record earnings driven primarily by strong marine fuel sales. Barge manufacturing companies are revamping their barge facilities to add more production slots. Today numerous shipping companies maintain a fleet of barges for moving materials of varying sizes from large ships.
Segmentation of the barge market can be done on the basis of technology, applications and geography based on both manufacturing facility and end user locations. Depending upon the technology employed, barges may be classified as unpowered or powered barges. The unpowered barges move according to the water current or use a tugboat to drag it across the water channels. In this case both the first mate and the captain remain in the tugboats, as the tugboat provides power and steers the barge. On the other hand powered barges are self propelled and do not require a tug boat’s assistance. On self propelled barges the captain and the first mate are on the barge itself.
Although power barges are costlier than their counterparts but they act as a faster mode of transportation. Power barges are moored in the harbors and may have a self contained step-up transformer. Gas turbines or diesel is used for the start-up operations. Some recently built power ships are fitted with used reciprocating engines and a large bore dual fuel diesel engine that runs on heavy oil. According to the application areas, barges are classified as dry bulk cargo barge, liquid cargo barge, jack up barge, hopper barge, paddle barge, crane barge, splitz barge, and others. Barges are used today for transporting low-value bulk items, as the cost of hauling goods using a barge is very low. The barges may also vary in size according to the size of the cargo they carry.
Regional segmentation of the overall barge market can be done based on both manufacturing facility and end user locations. Some key barge manufacturing regions are the North America (United States), Europe (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, Russia, and Norway), Asia Pacific (China, Thailand and Australia) and Rest of the World (Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa). End user countries include the North America (United States, Canada and Mexico), Europe (Russia, India, and Japan), Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Rest of the World (Venezuela).
Cheap transportation costs, heavy dependence on crude oil, easy inland transportation, large carrying capacities and versatility (in terms of cargo carried) are some of the factors likely to drive growth in the barge market. Self-propelled barges are costlier, while non powered barges are slower which may prove to be a restraint to the barge market. New oil discoveries, increase in size of ships and construction of new smaller ports has made it difficult for the ships to enter into these ports, hence bolstering the opportunities for the barge market.
The Barge market is fragmented in nature, with several small companies and private barge owners competing for market share. Some key players in the barge manufacturing market are Kirby Freeport, Marine systems Included, Greenbrier Company, Ingram Barge Company, Bowcrest Marine, KBH Marine Industry Sdn.Bhd, Navios South American Logistics Inc., and Ultrapetrol Limited and others.