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The workhorses of the harbour


Tugboats are a critical cog in the operations of Vancouver’s harbour. They keep the economy running smoothly and efficiently, and most importantly, they keep our waters safe. From their humble beginnings on BC’s rugged coast during the 19th century, technological advances during the 20th century have advanced tugs from simple wooden hulls to strong steel, and from steam to diesel engines. Don’t be fooled by their size, tugs may be small, but they are built to be strong and tough enough to contend with even the largest of ships.   

Their role intersects with many different aspects of working at the port. They move logs, rafts, barges and scows, and they even help guide large ships to dock in the harbour. In addition to their main tow-boating duties, tugs also respond to ships in distress. They rescue ships in compromising positions near rocks and beaches, as well as those that have found themselves at the mercy of the ocean’s winds and currents, guiding them back safe waters. Some tugs are even equipped with powerful nozzles that can help fight waterfront fires. 

Come learn some tug-talk and history, you’ll soon know the lingo needed to talk like a pro! 

Two tugs, moving three barges together
Gulf Joan under Lions Gate Bridge
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1905 Ogden Ave.
Vancouver, BC
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