When push comes to shove, who wins? Who has more pull, a Tugboat or a Towboat? The answers depend on what needs pushing and what needs pulling!
If you want to move a large and resistant object in tight quarters or shallow waters you want control, power and maneuverability. This calls for a Towboat in most cases. Contrary to its name, a Towboat does not tow things behind it. A Towboat, also known as a Push Tug or Push Boat will typically have a squared off bow and tend to have a flat bottomed hull to work in shallow water. A key feature of Push Tugs are push knees—upright, padded beams that land against a ship or barge. The Towboat will “make-up” at the back, or stern of the barge or ship it is towing using facing wires, headlines and other means of rigidly connecting the two vessels together, so they may act as one during the tow. This type of towing is common on the Mississippi River, hence the reference to “Mississippi Style” towing. Push Tugs are common on the Inland Waterways, ports, harbors, lakes, reservoirs, rivers and estuaries of the United States and internationally.
If you have the task of moving a ship or barge in rough water, near-coastal or across oceans, you need a safe distance, sometimes thousands of feet, between the towing vessel and the vessel being towed. Your tug needs to have a deep, sea-kindly hull form, with a “model bow” design which allows it to pierce waves and swells. Forward thrust and efficiency are more important than maneuverability.
As naval architecture has advanced, the designs of these two distinct style of vessels has also advanced, and sometimes the capabilities have crossed-over to allow for versatility. Ultimately, nature and physics will probably keep the Tugboat and Towboat families distinct for some time to come!
Take a look at the some examples of both types in our Fleet and decide for yourself who has the most pull!