Tug or tow boats are vessels that push or pull other vessels such as barges, oil platforms, or disabled ships. They are also used to help maneuver larger ships that do not have the capability to do so for themselves, in tight quarters, rivers or in coming alongside piers. Obviously tugboats have powerful engines for their size and are sturdy enough to withstand high stress on their construction. The earlier tugboats had steam engines, however now they mostly have diesel engines. In addition many harbor tugs are been fitted with firefighting equipment allowing them to assist in firefighting.
Harbor tugs that are highly maneuverable and used to assist ships in their docking procedure. Pusher tugs or notch tugs nest into the stern of specially designed barges. When locked together they are frequently considered ships and are required to show the navigational lights of a towing vessel pushing ahead or compliant with those required of ships. There are seagoing tugs that tow oil rigs, oceangoing barges etc. The US Navy frequently uses the larger seagoing tugs they identify as fleet tugs. River tugs are also referred to as towboats or push boats, depending on what they are called on to do, however they have a severely limited freeboard and are dangerous on open waters.
The tasks tugboats undertake are varied and the list is endless. Tugboats help fight fires and in cold climates are sometimes used as icebreakers. A relatively new innovation for marine propulsion is the “Voith Schneider Propeller System” which is highly maneuverable, allowing the boat to change its direction instantly. This system is now widely used on harbor tugs.
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