History of Tugs

The towage as we know it today can not be compared to the modest beginning at the end of the 19th century. Around this period, towing voyages were mainly along the European coasts, and in some cases as far as North Russia and the Mediterranean Sea. From the beginning of the 20th century the journeys became longer and other oceans were navigated.

Dredging companies and shipyards

In particular, dredging companies benefited greatly from the stronger tugs that were used during this period. In this time they started to carry out projects all over the world, requiring a lot of dredging equipment. In the 20th century, objects such as dredgers and barges were often towed for these dredging companies.
Shipyards also had an interest in the development of the tugs. They used them for the transport of dry docks. The first dry dock was towed to Luanda, Angola in 1896. Such objects were towed by steam tugs with a power of up to 1,500 hp. In the thirties of the last century, the industry gradually switched to motor tugs.

Transition to motor tugs

After the Second World War, virtually all steam tugs disappeared from the oceans. A motor tugboat had more power and a larger range. In the fifties, the average power of these motor tugs was already up to 3,000 hp, which was twice as much as the capacity of steam tugs. During the sixties and seventies, power was futher increased to 22,000 hp. This was necessary in order to be able to tow ever heavier and more bulky objects. In this period the exploration of oil at sea started.
Not only the ability of the tugs increased, but also the appearance and technology changed. For example, a traditional steering wheel is no longer used, instead the autopilot was introduced. After entering the direction, the autopilot kept it on. Due to automation, the telegraph disappeared and the engine room is now unmanned.

Future of towage

It is clear that the development of towage continues. Tug design will develop further in the coming decades. The focus is on environment, energy saving and automation, for example in the transition to hybrid propulsion, the use of LNG and unmanned tugs. Although this direction has been taken some time ago, there is an interesting way to go.

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