A towboat is a powerful boat with a shallow draft which is designed to pull or push watercraft which are much larger and heavier than it is. Towboats are related to tugboats, which perform a similar function, although a boat designed for long haul trips is often called a towboat rather than a tugboat. Tugboats also tend to be somewhat smaller, and they also have rounded bows, rather than square ones. In some regions of the world, the boats are called pushboats or pushers. The snub nose of a towboat may not be terribly attractive to look at, but the muscular boats play an important role in global shipping.
The design of a towboat makes it very maneuverable, making it versatile in compact spaces. A towboat is also extremely strong for its small size, and the shallow draft enables a towboat to travel in shallow waters. A towboat can be used to tow disabled ships, move big ships around in a small port, or to pull barges. This last use is one of the most common uses for towboats, which ply the inland waterways of many nations, sometimes pulling very long strings of barges.
A very basic towboat has a simple wheelhouse from which to steer, and a small crew to handle the towboat and the watercraft it may be attached to. Towboats which are used on extended trips also have crew quarters, and are built with more comfort in mind. These towboats also have more extensive navigation and communications equipment. The crew members take turns on shift to navigate the boat, watch out for hazards, and deliver the products that the towboat carries.
A specially designed towboat can also be used to retrieve boats in need of a tow from the open ocean. In some cases, multiple boats may be dispatched, if the disabled boat is extremely large or potentially difficult to handle. When multiple towboats are involved, immense coordination skills are required between the boats and their crews to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Many motive enthusiasts collect pictures and models of towboats. The sturdy boats are excellent examples of efficiency, since they generate a large amount of power for their size. Their wide distribution around the world also makes it easy to collect towboat images from various nations, to compare towboat styles and decorations. Particularly dedicated towboat enthusiasts sometimes take trips along famous bodies of water to examine the sites and the towboats which supply civilization along the river.