Towing of Ship

When we are driving and suddenly the car breaks down then we require a towing van to tow our car to the garage for repair. Similar is that case with merchant ships.

From the past few years with the growing demands for shipping industry, the ships are being overloaded with goods to meet for the requirements moreover, size of fleets are also increasing rapidly.  Increase in fleet size leads to more chances of marine accidents some resulting in power loss and hence inability to steer. Here, tugboats come into role for the purpose of towing of ship. They tow the ship to the nearest port for repairing. In some cases, violation of maritime rules leads to seizure of ships and tow the ship to the port for legal procedures.

Vessels having arrangements for towing of ship at both ends

According to SOLAS 1974-chapter 5 regulation 15-1 all the tankers dead weight 20,000 GRT and above should have emergency towing arrangement emergency towing arrangement (ETA) fitted at both ends of tankers, constructed after 1st July 2002 and shall have arrangement capable of rapid deployment in absence of ships main power to be easily stored and carried to tow ship.

Aft towing arrangements

ETA at both ends should be strong enough considering the size and dead weight and expected forces during rough weather.

ETA at the aft side consists of storage box (containing messenger and pickup gear), a towing pennant, and chafing gear, a fairlead a strong point and a roller pedestal. In the aft arrangement there is a special requirement that is the pickup gear should be able to release to be released manually only by a single operator in case of an emergency.

Towing pennant

Towing pennants are connections used to easily connect the apex of the ship to the tugboat’s towing line the Apex side is connected with the chain pennant and the other side that is the chain pennant is connected to towing wire. Its length should be two times the lightest seagoing ballast free board at fairlead + 50m.

Towing Pennants
Towing Pennants

Important points regarding towing of ship:


Safety is most important onboard ship.  Moreover while handling the operations of towing of ship, safety cannot be compromised. All the guidelines must be followed and the crew members should be at a safe spot. Since the tension in the cables and wires are enough to cause serious damage to the crew, and it is advised only those who require, to be on the Deck.


The ship must have sufficient draught to prevent it from sinking/ grounding.


All the hatches, valves, potholes etc., must be checked. Cargo and other things must be secured to prevent collateral damage.


Before towing of ship, we must be aware of the weather forecast and the cables and changed must be well connected and should be strong enough to tow through the harsh sea.

Guide book

Ships have guide book for towing of ship and all the other operations including Emergency Towing Arrangement, so it must be referred and all the protocols must be followed.

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