There is a maritime term “lighter” which refers to a unpowered barge that was used to unload (lighten) larger ships anchored at roadsteads, unable to enter shallow harbours, or to facilitate transfer of cargo via inland waterways.
Nowadays, LASH (Lighter Aboard SHip) system is used with standardised lighter barges loaded on board of larger ship (similar idea to containers) to be released at destination.
In a strict context of (technical) maritime writing/usage, it seems that the term is perfectly understandable. However, writing for non-technical audience I ran into a problem where I had a passage describing various types of vessels used during Arctic navigation. Rough shortened quote: “…bulk loaders, container ships, tankers, and lighter barge ships”. Obvious issue is that for uninitiated that would likely mean ships that are lighter (smaller) than the other listed ones.
In Russian, where the term “лихтер” is a calque of the Dutch “lichter”, there is no confusion whatsoever. I am not sure that the same issue as in English would not arise in Dutch or German, languages that use same term.
What is the better way to handle this situation? Best without avoiding using the term. Is there a substitute? Is there a way to ensure the audience know that writer talks about specific maritime term, not just a common adjective of one thing lighter than the other?