The task of an emergency tugboat is to help a damaged ship that has lost its manoeuvrability. It has to establish a towing connection and tow it so far or keep it in controlled drift against the wind and swell so that it does not run aground on shallows or strand. In this way, commercial salvage companies can then safely take over the damaged ship. Emergency tugs do not have the task of carrying out commercial ship salvage operations. Rather, emergency towing is the first action of the coastal state to ward off immediate dangers.
The German government’s emergency towing policy for the German coast ensures intervention times of less than 2 hours. An emergency tugboat will thus arrive within a short time at the scene of an accident in both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. In order to achieve these intervention times, the German Federal Ministry of Transport has chartered private tugboats as a supplement to the federal multi-purpose vessels.