01 Jul Here In History by Betty Laver
The advent of the alumina refinery bought development to the port and the Department of Harbours and Marine was insistent that there be adequate towage for ships using the harbour.
Tugs were named after local important places and could undergo a name change so as not to be confused with the names of ships entering the harbour.
There were two companies who stationed tugs in the Gladstone Harbour, and these were the tug construction company of Stannard Brothers and Howard Smith Industries.
Stannard Brothers constructed two tugs, the “Gladstone” and “Milton” by 1966, and they were both put into service, being a marked improvement on the small tug owned by the Harbour Board.
The Australian Towage Services, operating for the Stannard Brothers, upgraded their fleet by adding the “Yarwun” in 1969, although the “Milton” was then transferred to Mackay.
Howard Smith Industries had been in the towage business since 1875 and, late in 1967, the newly launched tug “William R Golding” arrived in Gladstone.
This was the largest tug in operation in Australia at this time.
In September 1971, it towed the fully loaded 45,000-ton, disabled tanker “Tank Rex” from the Torres Strait to Gladstone.
The crew of this tug was Bill Richardson, Derek Brown, Ron Read, Dave McLure, Des Smith and George Thompson.
The fleet increased when the Howard Smith Company bought the “Tom Tough”.
They were the largest operator in Gladstone and HR Hornibrook built a tug berth on Macfarlan Drive, near Barney Point, for them.
The Australian Towage Services kept their tugs at a berth at the rear of Auckland Point Wharf, but the tug operations were pooled in 1971.
Howard Smith Industries acquired the Stannard Brothers operations thus securing the monopoly on the tug service in the Gladstone Harbour.
Another large tug of 27 tonne pull, the “Rodds Bay” arrived in 1971 and the “Yarwun” was then transferred to Mackay.
In 1974 the even larger, 33 tonne pull, twin screw, “Wistari” replaced the “Tom Tough”.
In 1977 the “Polmaise”, a tug with power and flexibility, was approved and the “Biloela” joined the fleet in the early 1980’s.
With the harbour capacity increasing over the years so has the size and number of tugs to control the massive volume of shipping in the Gladstone Harbour.