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Historic river port Dordrecht hosts world’s largest tugboat show

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DORDRECHT, the Netherlands - The second edition of ‘Vaart in Dordt’ has catapulted itself into the Guinness Book of World Records with its parade of nearly 160 tugboats. The noteworthy two-hour parade stretched a distance of about six kilometers. The record-breaking tugboat event was organized by Binnenvaart, a fan club for anyone with ties to the river barge cargo industry.

The convergence of so many tugboats on Dordrecht’s otherwise under-utilized river port saw the boats moored on its quays, with as many as five parked tightly side by side. Old-timers had not seen such numbers in the port for decades. The spectacle in turn brought out large crowds of onlookers who were lined up in multiple rows to inspect the vessels. The tugboat entries ranged from the very latest high-tech loaded models to the antiquated Julius, which was built in 1886, in effect representing 120 years of industry history.

The first attempt at a Dutch tugboat world record dates from last year when Rotterdam only attracted a disappointing 68 entrees. Vaart in Dordt organizers who wanted the title for Dordrecht, which incidentally long has been a centre for the tugboat using maritime salvage industry, engaged Binnenvaart for help. The club, which has gained wide recognition for its quality quarterly magazine, also showcases river barge industry history through its floating museum and documentation centre, the R. Siegfried, a river barge duwboot.


Binnenvaart’s volunteers in turn marshaled help far and wide through its appeals in industry magazine Sleep & Duwvaart, in the house organ De Beting, published by society De Motorsleep, and in De Sleper as well as in other industry bulletins. The publicity soon generated spontaneous parade entries and sponsorships to fund the costs of the parade. Since not very much gets accomplished in the Netherlands without permits and licences, the overall challenge to organize the parade would have been extremely daunting had organizers not received the generous assistance of agencies such as Rijkswaterstaat and het Havenbedrijf.

The waterway parade was set in motion by the traditional Rhine tugboat series of signals of first ringing the ship’s bell (the wake call, followed by the get ready call and the lift anchor call, all in a thirty minute time span) aboard the steam tugboat Narvik, a vessel built in 1910.