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?

  • 1
    "Barge carrying ships" and leave out the "lighter" part? – mgb Jun 29 '12 at 4:14
  • 2
    Could you say, "...container ships, tankers, and barge ships known as lighters." ? – JLG Jun 29 '12 at 4:22
  • How about adding a footnote or an explanation in parentheses? – kotekzot Jun 29 '12 at 5:27
  • @JLG, I think that deserves to be an answer. – Eric Finn Jun 29 '12 at 5:35
  • @kot, this is personal essay, this stuff would look out of place. But I am considering something like “large kangaroo ships carrying in their pouch barges, known as lighters”. – theUg Jun 29 '12 at 17:03

Wikipedia offers LASH carriers, barge carriers, kangaroo ships, and lighter transport ships as synonyms for this type of vessel. Suggest you rewrite using one of those terms. For example:

… bulk loaders, container ships, tankers, and LASH carriers

Then, of course, you could define the term, if you felt it would be unfamiliar.

  • “LASH carriers” can be too technical and “kangaroo ship” is too much of a jargon (though pointed). “Lighter transport ships” suffers from the same problem (transport ships that are relatively lighter). “Barge carrier” can be the better choice, but in the mind of some it can be confused with a tug (But that would be their utter fallacy, innit? :)). This could be useful, or “kangaroo” for it is certain to pique interest (I did use “ro-ro” already). After all, the whole point of this exercise is to prompt reader to research further if wanted, without diminishing, shall we say, plot comprehension. – theUg Jun 29 '12 at 4:32

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