What is Inland Towing?

Tug Hercules, Inland Towing, ICW, marine towing, p and l towing, P & L Towing

Some Important Terms

A tug boat moving a vessel from one location to another in “Inland Waterways” performs “Inland Towing.” 

The category of “vessel” consists of barges, ships, boats, yachts or any other craft which floats in the water.

 “Inland Waterways” are bodies of water which are not exposed to offshore sea and weather conditions because they are considered “sheltered.”

“Sheltered” bodies of water are rivers, lakes, bays, canals, or sounds.

The Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway (or ICWW) acts as one of the major Inland Waterways of the United States because towing vessels (tug boats) frequently use it to move vessels, cargo, and equipment along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Approximately 3,000-miles long, the ICWW runs from Massachusetts to Florida. It then goes east/west along the Gulf coast all the way to Brownsville, TX. Federally maintained, the ICWW provides a safe, navigable inland path for vessels with little exposure to offshore seas. The Intracoastal Waterway has ultimate importance to intrastate commerce because it provides a significant amount of accessibility for inland towing companies. 

Florida joins the Atlantic and Gulf Intercoastal Waterways by way of the Lake Okeechobee lock and canal system (also known as the Okeechobee Water Way or OWW). Consequentially, the State serves as the ICWW system’s fulcrum. 

Pros of Inland Towing:

  1. Transit safety increases as the tug boat and tow do not get exposed to offshore sea and weather conditions.
  2. It may be more cost effective as smaller tug boats and barges with special regulatory exemptions can be used in lieu of more expensive “offshore” vessels. 
  3. Time underway decreases by avoiding poor offshore sea and weather conditions. 

Cons of Inland Towing:

  1. Occasionally, transits take longer due to increase boat traffic, speed restraints, draw bridges, locks, water depth, etc. 
  2. Only shallow draft vessels (8 feet or less) may transit certain waterways such as the Intracoastal Waterway. 
  3. Vessels in tow may be restricted in size and draft. As a result, the amount of cargo and equipment moved at one time decreases. 


With our specialized tug boats and easy access to the ICWW, we will move your equipment anywhere in Florida and the Southeast. If your company requires these services or you would like more information, please contact us.