The JR More

By 12th September 2019 Articles

With the JR More having been taken away for restoration we thought that now would be a good time to provide some background information on this historic tugboat. You may not be able to see the real thing at the moment but at least you can imagine how she was in her glory days!

The JR More turning the British India Line vessel, Kenya, in Durban harbour
The JR More turning the British India Line vessel, Kenya, in Durban harbour

One of the last remaining steam powered tugs in South Africa, the JR More was built in 1961 by Ferguson Bros. Shipbuilders Ltd in Glasgow for the South African Railways & Harbours Administration (now Transnet). Unusually, she was designed as an oil-fired steam tug as opposed to coal-driven, giving her a longer range for ocean towage and salvage operations, and also making her easier to maneuver when doing harbour work. The JR More was the last of three sister ships built by Ferguson Bros and, in fact, was the last steam tug built for service in South African harbours. The other two tugs were the Danie Hugo (1959), based in Cape Town, and the FC Sturrock (1959), based in Durban. Sadly, both of these tugs were scrapped in the 1980s and the JR More is the only survivor of the three.

A model of the JR More
A model of the JR More

At the time of its construction, the J.R. More could be distinguished from the Danie Hugo and the FC Sturrock as she had a single tripod foremast while the other two had separate foremasts and radar masts. The JR More also had twin rudders. The sister tugs did occasionally work together. In 1963 the JR More and FC Sturrock went to the rescue of the American vessel, Aimee Lykes, which was grounded on the Aliwal Shoal. Together the two tugs managed to salvage the stricken ship, which was then sent for repairs – a couple on holiday in Durban took a home video of the impressive Aimee Lykes while she was dry-docked!

After 21 years of service the JR More was finally decommissioned in November 1982 and handed over to the Port Natal Maritime Museum (now the Durban Maritime Museum), where she has remained ever since. Over the years the harsh Durban climate has taken its toll on the tugboat but in her heyday she was quite the beauty – and hopefully will be again soon! As one boat enthusiast wrote:

I think JR with the SAR&H colours was the best looking steam tug ever made, and as one of the last big steam tugs was the ultimate perfect looking steam tug – a good reason that she should be preserved”, Ralph Wilmot,

Technical details of the JR More:

  • Overall length: 53,72m (176, 3 ft)
  • Moulded breadth: 11,303m (35 ft)
  • Moulded depth: 5,48m (18 ft)
  • Mean draught: (Fully loaded) 4,712m (15,5 ft)
  • Displacement: 1654,94 tonnes.
  • Gross Tonnage: 817,689 tonnes.
  • Built by: Ferguson Brothers, Glasgow. 1961
  • Decommissioned: 22 November 1982.
  • Propulsion: 3 Scotch, 3 furnace multi-tubular boilers driving 2 sets of triple expansion steam engines of 3110 indicated horsepower each. Twin screw. (Rankin & Blackmore, Eagle Foundry, Greenock. Engine no. 593 (both units). 1960)

Images courtesy of, and

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