built 1927 by Harland & Wolff Ltd, Govan

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National Historic Fleet

Service Vessel



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Steam compound


Scotch Return Tube

D & W Henderson & Co Ltd, Partick



To be confirmed

18.69 feet (5.70 metres)

90.16 feet (27.50 metres)

8.98 feet (2.74 metres)



A fine example of a small steam coastal and river tug, the twin screw, coal-fired PORTWEY was ordered from Harland & Wolff, Govan, in October 1926 for barge and collier towing duties with the Portland & Weymouth Coaling Co. at Weymouth. Her enginers were built by W. & D. Henderson, Glasgow, and she was launched on 10 August 1927 and completed on 28 April 1928.

In addition to being equipped for towing, PORTWEY was fitted with water tanks, of 33 tons capacity, to take fresh water (as well as other supplies) to ships. In 1938, she was sold to G. H. Collins & Co. Ltd of Dartmouth, still under the ownership of the previous holding company, Evans & Reid. In 1942, she came under the control of the US Army at Dartmouth: her duties included towing damaged vessels back to port.

After the war, PORTWEY returned to Weymouth (with the Channel Coaling Co., another Evans & Reid subsidiary) until August 1951, when she was sold to the Falmouth Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd at Falmouth and was used in towage duties in Falmouth harbour for fourteen years. In 1965, she was used on a contract at Holyhead and then withdrawn from service. In 1967, she was bought for preservation by Richard Dobson of Stoke Gabriel, on the River Dart, and steamed there from Holyhead. She took up moorings on the Dart, and for fifteen years, a dedicated group maintained and restored her, and she was regularly steamed in the summer months. In 1982, she was sold to the Maritime Trust (who had previously assisted with her restoration) and steamed to London in June of that year to join the historic ship collection in St Katharine Docks. In June 2000, she was chartered to the Steam Tug Portwey Trust, which was formed to continue the programme of renovation and operation of the vessel.

Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated Mar 2011.

Norman J Brouwer, International Register of Historic Ships (Edition 2, 1993) pub: Anthony Nelson
Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles (May Edition 6, 1994) pub: Steam Boat Association of Great Britain
Sea Breezes (September, 1983) The 'Portwey' Preserved
John Corin, Ships Monthly (July Still in Steam, 1979, pp22-23) Still in Steam: Portwey

Key dates

  1. 1927 Built by Harland & Wolff, Govan, to the order of the Portland & Weymouth Coaling Company Limited
  2. 1940/1945  Controlled by the US Army during World War Two and based in Dartmouth
  3. 1951 Sold to the Falmouth Dock & Engineering Company
  4. 1962 Bought by a group for restoration
  5. 1996 Received an £82,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund
  6. 2000 The Steam Tug Portwey Trust was created and the vessel moved to West India Dock London
  7. 2012 Took part in the Avenue of Sail as part of the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant celebrations


  1. 1979 Ships Monthly Still in Steam: Portwey
  2. 1983 Sea Breezes The 'Portwey' Preserved
  3. 1993 International Register of Historic Ships - Brouwer, Norman J
  4. 1994 Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles


  1. 1996 £82,000 was awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund for replacement of hull plating.Source: Steam Tug Portwey Trust
  2. 2002/03 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £10.200 for restoration work
  3. June 2013 A Sustainability Award of £1000 towards the costs of hull work was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk


a rope, chain or iron collar which attaches the yard to the mast but which allows vertical movement