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Education and training

Historic tugs power innovative engineering training for a greener maritime future

21 November 2023

The volunteer team looking after an historic steam tender, which once towed Mersey barges alongside ocean liners of the Edwardian era, is leading an innovative maritime future skills project around decarbonisation funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Daniel Adamsonaffectionately known as The Dannyis working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, Liverpool John Moores University, and National Museums Liverpool to equip college students with practical skills around maritime sustainability and vessel design. A cohort of 36 top engineering students from Merseyside and Cheshire colleges have been enrolled.

Long-time Nautilus member Captain David McNamee is a skipper of The Danny, a restored former art deco steamship. He did not take part in the student event, but in May 2023 he gave a talk aboard The Danny on his long career at sea during the 80th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic. The vessel had a role in the Manchester Ship Canal during the Battle of the Atlantic, towing into port the vessels that had safely crossed the ocean destined for Manchester. 

The new Maritime Heritage – Maritime Futures programme will focus on educating A-Level enineering students about Liverpool's rich maritime heritage and centre for innovative maritime technologies – including how the region's maritime sector is greening its operations, and what kind of jobs and opportunities exist.

At left: The Danny's Bosun, Allan Thomas (formerly of Blue Funnel Line) with students from Riverside College Widnes & Runcorn, Cheshire.  At right: students explore the Brocklebank tug which took part to illustrate the evolution of tug boat propulsion over the last 120 years. Image: Wes Storey /The Danny

Over the course of the academic year, and with the support of some of the region's most experienced naval architects and engineers, the students will be tasked with designing and building a prototype vessels informed by the principles of low carbon design. They will then showcase these prototypes at a Float Your Boat competition in Liverpool in June 2024.

Engineers from several historic and working tenders also led vessel tours in November 2023 in Liverpool, illustrating the challenges and evolution of maritime propulsion over the last 120 years; the role of retrofitting fuel technologies; vessel speed limits; and fuel types needed for mapping a decarbonised maritime future.


The steam-powered heritage tug SS Daniel Adamson (middle) was joined by National Museums Liverpool's Brocklebank (1964) (left) and Svitzer's climate neutral tug, Trident (2016) during the educational event. Image: The Danny

Collaborations and partnership manager for The Danny Cathriona Bourke said: 'By introducing these young engineers to their maritime heritage as well as the vast potential on their doorstep we are giving them a sense of pride and belonging which we hope will equip them with new skills, ambitions, and confidence in what they can achieve.'

Engineering student Alice Johnson from Hugh Baird College in Bootle said: 'To come and actually see the history of the boats and how they've evolved through the years has been really good and really educational towards the course I am doing.'