• Tampa, FL
  • Phone 813-251-5100
  • 3670 S West Shore Blvd. Tampa FL 33629
28 Apr

What is the Difference Between Towboats and Tugboats?

Towboats Vs Tugboats, what’s the difference?

When you have a large object in the water — a barge, for instance — that needs to be moved, you’re going to be need some type of vessel for the job. This has been part of the nautical world for many decades, yet, many of our clients get confused over the terms “towboat” and “tugboat.”

Are they the same thing? Do they push or pull? Do they carry out the same functions? After today, all of this should be cleared up.

Tugboat Vs Towboat — Pushing and Pulling 

Since the words “tug” and “tow” are synonyms of each other and also mean to “pull” or “yank,” most people assume that tugboats and towboats are restricted to pulling barges and larger vessels. This isn’t true, however. Tugboats, for instance, routinely pull objects, but it’s also common for them to push objects as well.

Towboats, on the other hand, will only be tasked with pushing objects in the water.

So, why are they called towboats? Simple… when a towboat is being used, the object it’s been tasked to move becomes “the tow,” which is why it’s named that way.

Tugboat Vs Towboat — Physical Design

The easiest way to tell tugboats and towboats apart from each other isn’t typically to see whether they’re pushing or pulling, because both types will most often push their ship or barge. What you want to look for is the physical design itself.

A tugboat is built with a pointy bow and deep hull. You might also notice that it’s equipped with deep water propellers. A towboat, on the other hand, is designed with a squared-off bow that better suits their job of only pushing vessels, in addition to a flat-bottomed hull. Even if these two descriptions don’t seem readily evident, trust us — in person, you can easily figure out which type you’re looking at.

Tugboat Vs Towboat — Waterborne Functionality

The physical appearance of tugboats and towboats is enough to tell them apart, but it’s their functionality that really matters. Tugboats are designed with watertight door, in addition to a “model bow” design that allows them to pierce waves and swells.

These features make them very useful when moving a barge or large vessel through rough waters and means they’re well-equipped to be out in the middle of the ocean. Towboats, on the other hand, aren’t watertight and have a flattened design. This means you won’t see them pushing anything when waters are rough. Instead, they’ll be tasked with jobs in shallow waters such as inland waterways, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, ports, harbors, and estuaries.

Contact Dann Ocean Towing to Learn More About Tugboats and Towboats

Although the tugboat vs towboat discussion is an important one, this isn’t something you should concern yourself with. Dann Ocean Towing understands what type of vessel is needed for your specific needs, including the required horsepower. If you have any questions about our services, please give us a call at (813) 251-5100 today to get a free consultation.