What’s Next For Brisbane’s 98-year-old Tugboat Forceful?

With the maintenance of ‘Forceful’ already costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Queensland Maritime Museum Association (QMMA) board has decided that the 98-year-old tugboat should be dismantled and recycled in early 2023.

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Forceful, the last coal-fired steam tugboat in Queensland, has reached its fate after the QMMA board agreed that “it could no longer afford” its maintenance and storage costs. Over the last 20 years, the association has reportedly spent nearly $1 million on the tug.

Queensland Maritime Museum is one of the largest maritime museums in Australia operated by volunteers for more than 50 years now. However, they only rely on grants, sponsorship, fundraising, venue hire and membership and entry fees to operate. 

Forceful’s arrival at The Yard (Photo credit: The Yard Brisbane/Facebook)

The tugboat is currently at The Yard in Murarrie, but QMMA is already in talks with a company who will dismantle and recycle the ship by April or May 2023.

When it arrived at The Yard in January 2021, it’s announced that it would be assessed to determine the cost of repairs it will take to bring her back to working condition.

However, because of the flood-risk concerns raised by the Maritime Safety Queensland, the association was not able to bring her back to the river. MSQ believes the vessel would cause significant risk to downstream infrastructure and maritime safety, especially during a flood.


At the Brisbane River in 1998 (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Forceful was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons on the famous River Clyde in Scotland in 1925 and served the port of Brisbane for 45 years. Besides its coal-fired boilers, its triple-expansion engine is a rare surviving example of the ships of its era.

Crew of Forceful. The man second from the left in the front is Albert Victor Giese who later became captain of the Forceful until it was retired from service (Photo credit:  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

In 1941, she was drafted into the Navy and served in Fremantle and Darwin, conducting top secret missions, before returning to civilian duties in Brisbane in 1943.

A.U.S.N ship, Orungal being pulled by the tug, Forceful up the Brisbane River. 1953 (Photo credit:  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Forceful’s service gradually decreased by the 1960s, when more efficient diesel engined tugs were introduced in Brisbane. She retired from service on 28 September 1970 following frequent idle periods. 

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Her life as a museum ship began in 1971 when she was handed over to the QMMA. Upon being donated to the museum, she was preserved as a working vessel, making regular trips down the Brisbane River to Moreton Bay. 

Published 15-March-2023