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
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 to minimize the environmental damage such as that caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or the Amoco Cadiz and Torrey Canyon disasters.
In popular culture
- The Key, based on a novel by Jan de Hartog, is about WWII Admiralty tug operations.
- In 1943, Jacques Cousteau's team made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks).
- Ghost Ship is a film about an ocean liner which disappeared in mysterious circumstances and is discovered by a maritime salvage contractor.
- 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
- "'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