Turning a shipping container into a barge...? Plz don't laugh :-)

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by congoriver, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. congoriver
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    congoriver Junior Member

    Okay, is there even a remote possibility that this would be feasible, cost-effective or efficient?

    1. DR Congo gets lots of 40ft shipping containers from China in, but none out.

    2. It needs lots of river barges, to get agricultural products from up-river and inland out.

    3. There are no barges, there are growing numbers of shipping containers.

    4. Turn the shipping containers into river barges?

    Since I'm not a boat builder, I wonder if this could be possible.

    I thought: well these typical D-Day landing craft were basically containers too, and they were capable of making it over the rough shores of Normandy, so why would a modified steel shipping container not make it over the Congo River?

    1. make container watertight (they are pretty water-tight as they are; many containers that get lost at sea end up, closed, with their contents intact, ashore).

    2. reinforce the container by fitting a steel frame inside it.

    3. attach some type of bow to it.

    Okay, obviously this is a fantasy, but the need for dirt-cheap barges to get foodstuffs out of the country-side and to the cities is so huge, that even desperate ideas pop up sometimes... :)

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  2. tinhorn
    Joined: Jan 2008
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    tinhorn Senior Member

    It's gotta be doable.

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  3. eponodyne
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    eponodyne Senior Member

    I would think it would be fairly easy to build a raft, with shallow sides to it, with one pointy end and one blunt end, sized to fit a shipping container, with an outboard motor on the blunt end. Maybe hinge the pointy end so it could swing sideways or down so the container could be winched off? There's got to be at least one crane in Congo that could sit at a port....

    Failing that, there's always plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  4. Manie B
    Joined: Sep 2006
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    Manie B Senior Member

    Congoriver i have a friend that has been working in the DRC for 5 years, so we do know a little bit, what you are proposing is not the way to go.

    It would be cheaper to build a proper barge that is sized correctly to do the job it is intended for

    Recycling things just because they are there often doesnt work

    The problem you are facing with food shortages and the means to deliver, is more of a beaurocratic problem than a vehicle problem, eventually all of southern africa will be in exactly the same situation.

    Read http://www.thetimes.co.za/ todays headlines and you will see what i mean.

    However a well designed Barge could be a very good thing, just be carefull of the people shooting at you from the banks with their AK47
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  5. masalai
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    masalai masalai

    Manie, somebody else must be looking it up as I cannot get through:D:D
  6. murdomack
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    murdomack New Member


    I once thought of using containers in a simillar if different purpose. The problem is that containers are designed with immense strength in the corner posts, vertically, and the rest of the design is only sufficient to carry the load without collapsing. There are rules for how they are lifted which says that when loaded they have to be vertically lifted at the corners.

    Relying on the container to maintain its shape when floating would be a gamble and adding steel into every container would not be economic as they don't last long when treated harshly.

    Now, if you were to build a hull that could carry a container twist-locked onto it, you could change containers when desired and still have your river-going transporter.

    You could chop a container re-using the top and bottom (or two tops) to give the required depth for the desired bouyancy, fit frames inside, plate the bottom, fit bow, beam and stern extensions and double skin the rest. It sounds easier to build the boat from scratch, but if, as you say, you have all these unwanted containers, you could get a lot of your material for nothing. You might need to chop three containers to make your barge and obtain some heavier steel for the bottom and hull sides.

    If you went to say 3.5mtr beam, probably about a 1 metre depth would be required to carry a fully loaded container and keep the deck dry.

    Are there regulations in force that you need to comply with on the river? You could always build a prototype without the heavier skin/bottom to see how it goes and if everyone is happy then spend the required money to bring it up to scratch. Best of luck with your endeavor.
  7. Meanz Beanz
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Meanz Beanz Boom Doom Gloom Boom

    Hey, thats Jim boat!
  8. the1much
    Joined: Jul 2007
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    the1much hippie dreams

    i could make a boat from a container,,,i'd do more of a pontoon style tho,,,,,my front porch wasnt big nuff to put pontoons on,,hehe ;)
  9. bntii
    Joined: Jun 2006
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    bntii Senior Member

    Maybe go one step further-try to design a boat which is build from the materials in containers?
    That is cut the things up and weld up to some sort of boat? Maybe just the doors would be of use as hull panels. Really shooting from the hip but sounds like $ will be needed any way you go- thin steel is going to need paint and facilities to build/maintain the hulls.

    Do you have push boats? Is a one way trip for the barge ok?
    Maybe the quick and dirty approach would serve:

    Cut the tops off two containers about a foot down and bolt them together side by side. Seal up the doors and build a quick and dirty pole deck about 5 feet down from the top which is framed athwart ships. Load them up, tarp the cargo and push the whole mess along as is with a outboard skiff. Are there strong currents in the Congo?
  10. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    I don't know much about Africa but I would strongly suspect the problem is as Manie says, a bureaucratic, political, human failing rather than a material lack of resources, vehicles, etc. I would think piracy might be a big concern.

    As far as the containers themselves, all of them I have been around have a plywood floor supported by steel beams and that's all, there is no solid steel below the plywood, as on the sides and tops. So the bottoms wouldn't be good for putting in the water.

    The corrugated sides and top would be very inefficient as far as pushing or pulling them through the water, drifting with the current would be no problem, but you have to somehow get them upriver. Cost effectiveness and efficiency usually mean having cargo both ways, what could be towed upriver to sell or trade?

    You would have to weld the doors shut and possibly other places to make them watertight.

    If they were cut in half lengthwise, I would think they would lose their structural integrity and have to be reinforced somehow to keep them from twisting, and surely from folding in half when loaded with something as "fluid" and nonstructural as grain. Even turning them upside down may effect the structural integrity a bunch. Since they seem to be "disposable", they are surely built with the least amount of materials possible and still be able to perform their function. And not designed to be upside down.

    They would require a cover to keep out rain, etc.

    They would be feasible as far as possible goes, cost-effective or efficient might even work, since from what I see about Africa, there is a huge surplus of people with nothing to do.

    Couldn't they be better used as housing?

  11. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    Most 40 ft, (and the half size 20 ft), have quite thin walls and a cheap plywood floor which is readily replaceable.... NOT suitable for converting to a boat...

    SamSam has the best solution/use for containers.....
  12. Mild Bill
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    Mild Bill Well, not entirely mild.

  13. big-boss
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    big-boss Junior Member

    Let the Civil Engineer help out, please.

    Turn the container upside down. (steel top - hardwood bottom)
    Cut out the wood bottom and most floor beams-lowering CG?
    Weld the doors solid up to about 2ft.
    Check for leaks.
    Pick an end for the bow put some kind of point on it (could use the wood floor?)
    Put a motor on the back.
    Put it in water.
    Add concrete in the bottom to get the right draft (naval arch. comes in here)
    Go to the races, leaving as much of the sides up as you may need (For protection- they are pretty tough but a 9mm will penetrate) YOu could even live in it.
  14. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    Obviously no ergonomics or time motion skills?
    Lobbed hand grenades? - - - Windows - fireing ports? - - - AK47 barriers? - - - run-away speed? - - lots more issues....

  15. the1much
    Joined: Jul 2007
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    the1much hippie dreams

    how good can elephants swim? hehe ;)
    and has everyone forgotten how EASY it is to rip most of them containers up?,,i've ( i mean i know someone) that threw rocks through the flimsy things.,,,what would 1 stump or SOLID rock do?,,or even a hippo!hehe ;)
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