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SMS Towage is our dedicated towage provider for commercial ships, they have two tugs available within an hour’s notice. The tugs based at Portsmouth are:


  • 2460 kW combined main engine power
  • Bollard Pull: 50t
  • LOA: 24.39m
  • Beam: 9.15m
  • Draft: 4.42m
  • Built: 2007, Sanmar, Turkey


  • 3,300 bhp main engines and 1,500 bhp auxillary engines.
  • Bollard Pull: 50t
  • LOA: 24.39m
  • Beam: 9.15m
  • Draft: 4.40m
  • Built: 2012, Sanmar, Turkey

General advice on the use of tugs

General Advice

  • Brief all tugs on your intended plan before starting. Never assume that they know your drill from previous berthing / unberthing, because conditions will probably be different and the tug master may have changed.
  • During a manoeuvre use clear, precise orders leaving out your own call sign if no confusion can arise.
  • When using a tug’s stern hawser, a bow tug should not be allowed to move more than 45° from right ahead whilst your vessel has appreciable way on. If he does, STOP and reduce way quickly to avoid girding.
  • Before making any course alternations with a head tug secured, warn him i.e. I SHALL BE TURNING SHORTLY – LEAD ROUND TO PORT/STARBOARD.
  • When slipping a tow line, other than in an emergency, request the tug to ‘stop pulling and prepare to let go’, once she has taken the strain off, and positioned herself to recover the tow without risk she will indicate ‘I am ready to let go’. Only in an emergency should the tug be slipped with the strain on.

Tug Safety

  • The danger of girding arises when a tug is towed broadside by her own tow rope and is unable to manoeuvre out of this position. It may arise when the ship in tow gives a kick ahead or astern on her main engines. This is especially dangerous when a tug is towing on the beam and lack of judgement in such circumstances may manoeuvre the tug into a helpless position with danger of capsizing.
  • Modern tugs have a large engine power in relation to their size and the strength of the tow rope is in proportion to the engine power. In consequence, if the tug is pulled laterally through the water with the tow rope bearing out on the beam it cannot be guaranteed that the tow-rope will part before the tug is capsized.
  • Although tugs are provided with the slip hooks there is some likelihood of the slipping arrangement failing to function when the tow rope is bearing athwart the tug. In an emergency, Master and Mates in charge of tugs, who consider their vessel to be in danger of girding, have been ordered to slip the tow regardless of the situation of the vessel towed.
  • The problem of girding does not apply to water tractors because their towing hooks are situated right aft and can swing through 360 degrees. Sudden acceleration by a ship under tow could result in a tractor being towed by the stern with the possibility of being pulled violently into the ships side. A tractor uses its propulsion unit to steer and consequently its forward speed is reduced when turning. Care must therefore be taken during a turn to avoid over running the tractors when used for towing ahead.