Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Towage Definition:

The assistance given by one vessel to accelerate the progress of another.

The earliest firm decision in the English common law on towage was Re The Princess Alice in which it was stated that:

"(W)ithout attempting any definition that may be universally applied, towage service may be described as the employment of one vessel to expedite the voyage of another when nothing more is required that the accelerating (of) her progress."

Towage implies that there is no danger at hand or, to use the words of the 1875 case The Strathnaver no "actual (or) imminent probable danger."

towageIn The Reward, the Court stated that towage was:

"... confined to vessels that have received no injury or damage...."

Towage is usually, but not always, provided by specialized vessels commonly referred to as tugs or tug boats and towage can also refer to the money due for towage services as in "towage fees".

Finally, salvage is to be distinguished from towage, the distinction being of great importance.

In Westrup, lawyers argued vigourously for a finding that there was a maritime lien in regards to towage but the Court ruled against the then-novel proposal.

In the result, as stated in Volume 1(1) of Halsbury's Laws of England - Admilralty Law:

"Although there  is a maritime lien in respect of salvage, there is no maritime lien in respect of towage."


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