Lighter (barge)

: "For other uses, see Lighter (disambiguation)".

A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods to and from moored ships. Lighters were traditionally unpowered and were moved and steered using long oars called "sweeps", with their motive power provided by water currents. They were operated by highly skilled workers called lightermen and were a characteristic sight in London's docks until about the 1960s, when technological changes made lightering largely redundant.

The name itself is of uncertain origin, but is believed to possibly derive from an old Dutch or German word, "lichten" (to lighten or unload). In Dutch, the word "lichter" is still used for (smaller) ships that take over goods from larger ships.

The word "lighter" is still used in the modern ship type: Lighter Aboard Ship (LASH).

The lighter barge gave rise to the 'Lighter Tug'- a small, maneuverable type of harbour tug. Lighter Tugs (themselves often simply referred to as 'lighters') are designed for towing lighter barges. As such, they are smaller than a traditional harbour tug and lack the power or equipment to handle large ships.

Loading large ships

Lighters, albeit powered ones, are proposed to be used in 2007 at Port Lincoln and Whyalla in South Australia to load Capesize ships which are too big for the shallower waters nearer the shore.


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