Certificate no 54
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Tug
Location London
Vessel type Tug
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Harland & Wolff Ltd, Govan
Built in 1927
Hull material Steel
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam compound
Boiler type Scotch Return Tube
Boilermaker D & W Henderson & Co Ltd, Partick
Boiler year 1927
Boiler fuel coal


Breadth: Beam
18.69 feet (5.70 m)
8.98 feet (2.74 m)
Length: Overall
90.16 feet (27.50 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed


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 In 1965, she was used on a contract at Holyhead and then withdrawn from service.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.



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

Key dates

  • 1927

    Built by Harland & Wolff, Govan, to the order of the Portland & Weymouth Coaling Company Limited

  • 1940/1945

     Controlled by the US Army during World War Two and based in Dartmouth

  • 1951

    Sold to the Falmouth Dock & Engineering Company

  • 1962

    Bought by a group for restoration

  • 1996

    Received an £82,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund

  • 2000

    The Steam Tug Portwey Trust was created and the vessel moved to West India Dock London

  • 2012

    Took part in the Avenue of Sail as part of the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant celebrations


  • 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

  • 2002/03

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £10.200 for restoration work

  • 1996

    £82,000 was awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund for replacement of hull plating.Source: Steam Tug Portwey Trust

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

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