A pusher, pusher craft, pusher boat, pusher tug, or towboat, is a boat designed for pushing barges or car floats. In the United States, the industries that use these vessels refer to them as towboats. These vessels are characterized by a square bow, a shallow draft, and typically have knees, which are large plates mounted to the bow for pushing barges of various heights. These boats usually operate on rivers and inland waterways. Multiple barges lashed together, or a boat and any barges lashed to it, are referred to as a “tow” and can have dozens of barges. Many of these vessels, especially the long distances, or long haul boats, include living quarters for the crew.
Towboat engine outputs range from less than 600 horsepower (447 kW) up to 11,100 horsepower (8,277 kW). Most towboats are from 35 to 200 feet (11 to 61 m) long, and 21 to 56 feet (6.4 to 17.1 m) wide. Smaller boats are used in harbors, fleeting areas and around locks while larger boats operate in “line-haul” operations over long distances and between major ports. In the United States, south of the Chain of Rocks Lock across from St. Louis on the Mississippi River, the river is open with no locks or impediments other than channel size and depth. Larger boats can run this segment of the river with the maximum tow size of 42 barges southbound and 40+ northbound. A typical River tow might be 35 to 42 barges, each about 200 feet (61 m) long by 35 feet (11 m) wide, configured in a rectangular shape 6 to 7 barges long and 5 to 6 barges wide, depending on the number of barges in tow. The whole tow, excluding the towboat, can easily be over 1,200 feet (370 m) long and 200 feet (61 m) wide, covering over 6 acres (2.4 ha) and holding thousands of tons of cargo.
them as riverine or lake service craft, for instance, dredgers, survey boats, fisheries management craft, fireboats and law enforcement patrol craft.