A salvage tug is a specialized type of tugboat which is used to rescue ships which are in distress or in danger of sinking, or to salvage ships which have already sunk or run aground.
Few tugboats have ever been truly fully dedicated to salvage work; most of the time, salvage tugs operate towing barges, platforms, ships, or performing other utility tugboat work.
Tugs fitted out for salvage are found in small quantities around the globe, with higher concentrations near areas with both heavy shipping traffic and hazardous weather conditions.
Salvage tugs are used by specialized crew experienced in salvage operations (salvors). Their particular equipment includes:
- extensive towing provisions and extra tow lines/cables, with provisions for towing from both bow and stern and at irregular angles
- extra cranes
- firefighting gear
- deluge systems
- mechanical equipment such as:
- common mechanical repair parts
- compressed air gear
- diving equipment
- steel for hull patches
- welding equipment
While salvage tugs are still in use, ubiquitous radar and depth sounders, Global Positioning System (GPS), and proper charts have made normal ship operations orders of magnitude safer than they were still around 1980. Ships are also much larger on the average than they were, and more damage resistant due to proper hull bulkheads, double bottoms and double hulls, and more reliable machinery. The total demand for salvage tug services is significantly down from its peaks in the years around World War II.
The increasing sensitivity of societies and legal systems to environmental damage and the increasing size of ships has to some extent offset the decline in the number of salvage operations undertaken. Accidents such as major oil tanker groundings or sinkings may require extensive salvage efforts to try and minimize the environmental damage (see Exxon Valdez oil spill, Amoco Cadiz, Torrey Canyon and in general Category:Oil spills).
In popular culture
- In 1943, Jacques Cousteau's team made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks), in which they used two of the very first Aqua-Lung prototypes. Subsequently, he investigated, filmed, and wrote about his experiences on numerous other wreck and salvage operations.
- James Cameron's inspiration for making the film Titanic (1997) was predicated on his fascination with shipwrecks, and the film interweaves the stories of treasure hunter Brock Lovett and his team, who explore the wreck of RMS Titanic, searching for a valuable diamond necklace called the Heart of the Ocean, and Titanic survivor Rose Dawson Calvert, who posed nude for a sketch Lovett salvaged, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean.
- In the CSI: Miami episode, "Dead Zone" (season 2, episode 2), Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and the CSI team investigate the murder of a sunken treasure hunter whose body is discovered pinned to the wall of his new cabin cruiser by a bloody spear from a spear gun fired at close range.
- Shipwreck Men (2013) is a reality TV series that follows crews who salvage and raise wrecked vessels.
- International Salvage Union, trade association for salvage tugs
- International Tug and Salvage magazine, website
- Salvage World magazine, International Salvage Union, also available online at www.marine-salvage.com
- Sampling of salvage companies
- Donjon Marine Co., a US-based tug and salvage company
- Gigilinis Shipping, a Greek maritime company with salvage operations
- Resolve Marine Group , a Global US based maritime emergency response company.
- Smit Internationale
- Titan Salvage a Global US based salvage company with offices around the world.
- United Salvage, a UK/Australian/South Pacific salvage company
- "26 - Dead Zone". CSI: Miami Episode Guide.
- "'Shipwreck Men' Premiere: Dangerous Job Of Salvaging And Raising Wrecked Ships (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 2013-01-15.
- Farley Mowat: The Grey Seas Under: The Perilous Rescue Mission of a N.A. Salvage Tug (on the salvage career of the tug Foundation Franklin). The Lyons Press, 2001, ISBN 1-58574-240-6 (First published as The Grey Seas Under, Little, Brown & Co., 1958, ISBN 0-316-58637-4)
- A Reassessment of the Marine Salvage Posture of the United States, ed National Research Council Committee on Marine Salvage Issues, Marine Board, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems., National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1994