Fundación Histarmar
Fundación Histarmar
The Histarmar Foundation is a Buenos Aires-based non-profit organization aimed at
locating, identifying, preserving and exhibiting Argentine maritime heritage. It is since
2011 the direct follower of, the dedicated maritime history
website started by Carlos Mey on 15 April, 2003, which duly received the support and
contributions of many individual researchers who for years had collected information
and data on the region’s maritime industries and naval scene. The
website allowed these efforts and common interests to be concentrated, improving
research and preservation work, widening horizons, and making available through the
web the results of these investigations. This has spurred an enhanced public interest in
our work, resulting in new and important contributions as a consequence of a
continued feed-back process. About 350 individuals are signed up on the Histarmar
forum, while the website records thousands of both local and
foreign daily hits. It is undoubtedly an internationally recognized reference link.
The setting up of the Histarmar Foundation in August, 2011 has given our work an
institutional boost, vastly improving our relationship with official and private agencies
related to maritime activities. By incentivating new cooperations, the Foundation has
been allowed to plan for larger projects. Among these, both completed and still
pending, we may list the following:
-Digitization of historic photographs collection of voyage records onboard the museum
ship ‘Fragata Presidente Sarmiento’ at Buenos Aires, employing a specially developed
in-house technique by one of our members.
-Part-digitization of photographs collection held at the archive of Dirección de
Construcciones Portuarias y Vías Navegables, Sección río de la Plata. Historic views of
dredgers and harbour construction work.
-Participation in events and seminars on maritime and industrial history.
-Research and supply of images and photographs for both domestic and foreign
-Fundación Histarmar’s digital house magazine PECIOS: The first edition which
appeared during December, 2012 has been downloaded 3000 times.
-Tracking and digitization project of the archive holding records for Empresa Líneas
Marítimas Argentinas SA, a major and now defunct state-owned shipping company.
-Acquisition and classification of books and material related to local maritime history,
which will eventually form the Foundation’s library.
-Publication of shipping-related material in our web-based library.
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-Coordination and voyage planning of trips to maritime interest sites. Transport
logistics, accommodation and related historic research.
One of the Foundation’s most ambitious projects has been the preservation of the two
steam tugs TRIUNFADOR and BIO-BIO which have been laid up at the port of Santa Fe,
Argentina, for over two decades. Ever since Histarmar member Capt. Julio Astrada
spotted them about five years ago we have been petitioning with owning company
Maruba SCA for the preservation of these vessels. Eventually, during November, 2012
Maruba Marítima expressed their intention to donate both ships on the provision they
not be employed commercially again, sharing in this gesture our view regarding the
historical importance of these vessels as the very last examples of the once large fleet
of steam tugs operating in domestic waters. This welcome decision in turn triggered
off a series of studies regarding the work needed to preserve the ships, and options as
to the best sites for their exhibition. These facts will be detailed later.
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The steam tug NUTRIA was built in 1933 by the Scottish shipyard Alexander Hall & Co.,
Ltd. for the Buenos Ayres Great Southern Railway Co. This British company ran the
railway which served the south of Argentina from 1864 until 1948. It built the ports of
Ingeniero White and Dock Sud and, as it operated its own fleet of cargo steamers as
well, it had three locally based tugs to serve its needs. The largest and most modern
was NUTRIA, launched on 21 November, 1933, and delivered during December. When
the fleet’s London-based manager Arthur Holland & Co. Ltd. decided to abandon their
business the vessels were sold off. NUTRIA was purchased almost new in 1937 by Cía.
Argentina de Navegación Mihanovich Ltda. and was named TRIUNFADOR in line with
her new owner’s naming scheme. In 1942 she was transferred into Cía. Argentina de
Navegación Dodero. When Dodero sold off to the Argentine government,
TRIUNFADOR became part of Flota Argentina de Navegación de Ultramar. In 1959 she
was again transferred to Flota Argentina de Navegación Fluvial, later restyled as
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Empresa Flota Fluvial del Estado Argentino. During the early 80’s she was purchased
along with BIO-BIO among a batch of redundant steam tugs by Argentine shipping
company Maruba SCA, a major concern with liner trades to the Med and also active in
world-wide bulk shipping. Both vessels were worked until the early 90’s when finally
laid up at the port of Santa Fe, fortunately with a permanent watch onboard due to
the owner’s wise decision.
Main particulars:
Builder: Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd., Aberdeen, Scotland
Hull nr.: 643
Classification Society: LR
Registry nr.: 2398
GRT: 213
Length: 32,50 m.
Net: 37
Breadth: 7,92 m.
LDT: 335
Depth: 3,96 m.
Draft: 3,58 m.
One triple expansion engine, 3 cylinders (16; 25; 42 x 27); A. Hall & Co., Ltd., Aberdeen, U. K.
Bollard pull: 10,49
Boiler: 200 Lbs.
Screw: 1
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The ocean-going tug BIO-BIO is a product of the Second World War, one of dozens of
tugs of varying sizes and capabilities that, based on proven commercial designs, were
ordered by the British Admiralty for harbour towage, salvage and convoy escort duties.
She is one of 18 similar units built by the Cochrane & Sons, Ltd. Yard at Selby, England,
being launched on 19 January, 1942, and delivered on 5 June to Pedder & Mylchreest
Ltd., a managing company engaged in the overseas ship delivery business. As EMPIRE
GOBLIN she sailed to South Africa where she served as a rescue tug throughout the
war. She was thereafter employed as a harbour tug by South African Railways &
Harbours, until purchased in 1948 by Argentine fishing company Angel Gardella & Cía.
This concern was then shifting its business focus into the towage arena by acquiring
new tonnage but also by converting former but powerful trawlers into tugboats.
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EMPIRE GOBLIN was renamed BIO-BIO and by the mid-50’s had already become part of
Flota Argentina de Navegación de Ultramar. In 1959 she was transferred to Flota
Argentina de Navegación Fluvial, later restyled as Empresa Flota Fluvial del Estado
Argentino. The early 80’s saw the dismemberment of the former state-owned towage
fleet. The more modern, diesel-powered units found ready employment under private
ownership, while the steam tugs were soon laid up. BIO-BIO followed TRIUNFADOR
into Maruba SCA ownership, and after a decade both were under retirement at the
port of Santa Fe.
Main particulars:
Builder: J. Cochrane & Sons Ltd., Selby, England.
Hull nr.: 1.244
Classification society: LR
Registry nr.: 1483
GRT: 277
Length: 34,01 m.
Net: 47
Breadth: 8,11 m.
LDT: 276
Depth: 3,96 m.
Draft: 3,58 m.
One triple expansion steam engine; 3 cylinders (381; 635; 1.067 x 686); Amos & Smith Ltd., Hull, U. K.
Bollard pull: 9,27
Boilers: 1
Screw: 1
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Approaching the end of the 1970’s a government decree banned the use of steampowered tugboats from the port of Buenos Aires. And in 1979 the Argentine stateowned riverine operator Flota Fluvial was wound up and its ships and craft sold off.
Most of the by then antiquated steam tugs were readily sold for scrapping, while a
select few continued serving in inland ports under private ownership. However, by the
dawn of the 90’s none remained in active duty. In 1992 the old, abandoned steam tugs
still remaining at Buenos Aires left for Campana for demolition. The same fate befell in
2004 to the four steam tugs which had lain high and dry at Puerto Galván for over a
decade, after an enthousiastic proposal by owning company Satecna Costa Afuera SA
to preserve one of the boats as a museum ship regrettably fell through at the very last
In a slow but relentless process, the vessels which had formed the backbone of
domestic towage services for over sixty years were fast disappearing. The peculiarities
of their operation, the running of a marine steam plant and the memory of the steam
tug age would also be gone, were it not for the continued existence of the steam tugs
TRIUNFADOR and BIO-BIO. It is therefore we feel we have before us a UNIQUE and
ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity to preserve this memory for future generations, a
chance the Histarmar Foundation strongly believes must not be missed. Fortunately
we have found in owning company Maruba Maritima a willing partner who shares our
vision, highlighting the historical importance of both ships based on the following
-They are the SOLE SURVIVORS of the once vast steam powered domestic tugboat
fleet. And amazingly after 80 and 70 years respectively, they are almost in their
ORIGINAL STATE. Among the very few modifications carried out are the raising of the
wheelhouse for improved visibility, but even this alteration is quite old and therefore
does not detract of the general vintage appearance of both vessels. Most equipment
and machinery are original, as well as the interior panelling, furniture, appliances and
-There is still another steam-driven tug in Argentina, the 1928-built ENRIQUE high and
dry for many years at the far southern port of Río Gallegos, but this vessel has however
been heavily modified from her original configuration.
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-They provide an EXTRAORDINARY opportunity to pay a well-deserved tribute to the
shipowners, crews and engineers who invested in these vessels, and operated, crewed
and repaired them for over eight decades, promoting Argentine foreign trade.
-They are an EXCELLENT chance to create a new and different cultural and tourist
attraction, particularly within Latin America with only a handful of this type of
preserved vessels.
-They offer us a glimpse of life aboard a tugboat, and the workings of a marine steam
propulsion plant which was the principal means of propelling ships from around the
mid-19th century up until the 1950’s/60’s, but now totally superseded.
Old steam tugs awaiting demolition at Campana, Argentina, 1991
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As explained earlier, the Histarmar Foundation has a special interest in the
preservation and exhibition of the steam tugs TRIUNFADOR and BIO-BIO, and has
taken an active role towards achieving this goal. At the same time, the Foundation
firmly believes that the restored vessels will generate an added interest in our
community by providing a link between our pioneering forebears in the shipping
industry and the current maritime scene, identifying those players who have
prospered in the intervening period, and clearly showing the similarities and
differences of working practices then and now.
Our project has a multi-tiered approach but is basically divided into the following three
main phases:
-Donation and effective handover of the vessels. Relocation of the tugs to the port of
Buenos Aires. The vessels’ current owner Marítima Maruba has fortunately
understood the spirit behind our project by donating them as agreed during
November, 2012. Legal proceedings for effectively taking over the vessels, as well as
bringing them down to Buenos Aires, are still pending.
-Restoration, rehabilitation and exhibition of the steam tugs TRIUNFADOR and BIOBIO. Conversion to museum ships. This phase will be carried out by the Histarmar
Foundation who will provide all the necessary financial and human resources for the
cleaning, preliminary work, repair, design and installation of visitor’s tour and related
information sheets, and final presentation of both vessels as museum ships. The two
steam tugs are to be deleted from the Argentine Ship Register, thereby preventing any
future commercial activity.
-Identification of eventual interested parties and presentation of the offer to own and
exploit the completed museum ships TRIUNFADOR y BIO-BIO. The Histarmar
Foundation cannot own and exploit the vessels in the long term; it is moreover not its
main aim, which is rescuing and preserving both ships for future generations as the
very last examples of an almost vanished era. This phase therefore calls for any public
or private institutions or individuals to take an interest and continue the preservation
project initiated by the Histarmar Foundation, triggered by Marítima Maruba’s
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generous gesture. The terms of an agreement are to be worked out between the
Foundation and the eventual interested parties.
During January, 2013 an Histarmar Foundation research team carried out a survey of
the steam tugs TRIUNFADOR y BIO-BIO, in order to ascertain their overall condition
and evaluate different preservation and exhibition options. Our expectations were
amply superseded. While after a two-decade lay up period a certain degree of damage
was naturally to be expected, we were instead treated to two very well cared-for
vessels, with many of their original fittings still present, clearly a consequence of
Marítima Maruba’s decision keep the ships under watch. These features have kept the
tugs as true time capsules of a now long-gone era, allowing for a realistic recreation of
those past times with original vintage equipment.
After our survey we started to study and develop different preservation and exhibition
options in order to maximize each vessel’s particular features, using similar
experiences abroad as examples to be analysed.
While there are dozens of old steam-driven museum ships of various types in the
world, the vast majority are in a static mode. And moreover, the share of steam tugs
among museum ships is fairly small. Not surprisingly, the largest numbers are to be
found in the traditional maritime nations. Doing justice to the country’s important past
and present role in the towage industry, the Netherlands can boast of its National
Towage Museum at Maassluis, which not only
offers its visitor permanent and temporary exhibits in its galleries, but also tours on no
less than three tugs in the adjacent basin. The large HUDSON and ELBE are diesel
powered, but the 1916-built FURIE is the last working steam driven tug in Holland. The
three ships frequently take part in maritime events and festivals across Europe, like the
Dordt in Stoom event held every two years at the Dutch city of Dordrecht. Dozens of
steam driven machines, vehicles and ships are shown to the public, attracting a crowd
estimated at around 250000 people.
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Steam tug FURIE built in 1916, Maassluis, Holland
Latest Dordt in Stoom festival, Dordrecht, Holland, May-June 2012
Great Britain offers an interesting selection of old steam tugs as well. Among the
dozens of smaller vessels, the 1861-built MAYFLOWER is one of the oldest steam ships
in existence. And no less than five large tugs operate as museum ships, with most
dating from around the Second World War period. Two particular vessels have a
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special significance for us as both the CERVIA of 1946 and the 1931-delivered
CHALLENGE are products of the Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd. yard of Aberdeen, the very
same yard that built NUTRIA-TRIUNFADOR. And moreover, in the case of CHALLENGE
the coincidence is astonishing, as she is almost a near sister to our vessel, opening up
promising and exciting opportunities in regard to cooperation and sharing experiences
towards our restoration work, based on the job carried out on CHALLENGE.
Steam tug CERVIA built in 1946, Ramsgate Maritime Museum, Ramsgate, England
Steam tug CHALLENGE of 1931, Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust, Shoreham,
England. This vessel is almost a near sister to NUTRIA-TRIUNFADOR
There are no less than three museum tugs in Australia, like the 1925-built FORCEFUL in
Brisbane, recently rescued from pending demolition, but whose historical importance
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prompted a last minute funding campaign to ensure its continued preservation. Other
examples include the Sydney-based WARATAH, at 111 years the oldest in Australia,
and WATTLE delivered in 1933.
Steam tug FORCEFUL of 1925, Queenstown Maritime Museum, Brisbane, Australia
Steam tug WARATAH of 1902, Sydney Heritage Fleet, Sydney, Australia
Meanwhile, the city of Durban in South Africa is home to the Port Natal Maritime
Museum which maintains three vessels. In addition to a Ton class former South African
Navy minesweeper, the museum holds the J R MORE of 1961, and the very interesting
ULUNDI of 1927, which has been placed high a dry on a berth. This tug served for 55
years for the same owner as BIO-BIO in her South African days, and her display
arrangement has deeply impressed and interested the Histarmar Foundation. Its
details will be discussed later.
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Steam tug ULUNDI of 1927, Port Natal Maritime Museum, Durban, South Africa
Steam tug BALTIMORE of 1906, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Baltimore, United
States of America
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Steam tug HERCULES built in 1907, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park,
San Francisco, United States of America
There are very few examples of still extant steam driven small craft or tugs in Latin
America. The interesting and commendable effort to restore the 1911-built PODEROSO
in Chile sadly came to grief when she was damaged, possibly beyond repair, by the
earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in February, 2010. She had served for
decades for the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. In the port of Montevideo, Uruguay,
the 1887-built wooden-hulled DIEGO CAPELLA Y PONS has been lying perched for
decades atop a breakwater, in a steadily deteriorating condition. And in Brazil, a
former Navy tender offers sightseeing trips in Rio’s Guanabara bay, but the LAURINDO
PITTA of 1910 has however been modified for her new role and, most significantly, has
been reengined with diesels.
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The Histarmar Foundation has analysed these and other examples in order to develop
a realistic approach towards the preservation and exhibition as museums ships of our
steam tugs TRIUNFADOR and BIO-BIO. We have accordingly identified several options
for locating and presenting the vessels.
We basically believe that the Dutch experience with its dedicated towage museum and
three adjacent preserved tugboats is totally beyond our possibilities. We therefore
propose siting both vessels within the port of Buenos Aires but in different locations to
generate two centers of attraction in two areas intimately linked with maritime history
and activity:
-La Boca-Vuelta de Rocha area. Historic port area where maritime activity started
under Spanish rule.
-Puerto Madero area. Buenos Aires’ first modern and proper port facilities built by a
British company at the end of the 19th century, now redeveloped as upscale office
buildings, apartments and marinas, but still retaining its former aura.
Representatives from both areas have shown an interest in our project. In the case of
the La Boca area to complement the district’s already established sightseeing tours by
providing a link to its rich maritime past, while in the Puerto Madero area it would
form an alternative to the traditional but interesting visits to the museum ships the
gunboat URUGUAY and full rigged school ship PRESIDENTE SARMIENTO. Both areas are
moreover important destinations for both domestic and international tourism
throughout the year.
As to the best ways of exhibiting the vessels we have identified the following:
-Keeping the vessels afloat.
-Placing the vessels on land on a specially constructed cradle.
Both options would entail the construction of an adjacent small building that would
serve as access point, small museum and gift shop.
The on-land alternative allows for a full view of the underwater hull and screw not
usually available to non-maritime observers, undoubtedly generating a considerable
impression on the general public. It also allows for a more linear tour of the vessel to
be developed, by entering the ship via the engine room and following a line up until
the wheelhouse.
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Steam tug ULUNDI on land at the Port Natal Maritime Museum, Durban, South Africa.
Access to the ship through the engine room.
The afloat option would allow overhauling and eventually running the machinery, with
a long-term ultimate goal of operating the vessel again for short excursion trips, as
many foreign examples show can be done. We are aiming here at generating an
interest from universities, engineering and technical schools and maritime training
establishments as the ship would offer a unique opportunity to study, repair and
operate this type of vintage machinery. And to achieve this we are counting on the
experience and capabilities of our own technicians and steam enthousiasts, but also
with the contribution and expertise of the British volunteers who succesfully restored
the steam tug CHALLENGE to full working order. As explained earlier, this vessel is a
near sister to NUTRIA-TRIUNFADOR. The existence of our steam tug generated a
tremendous surprise and excitement among the crew of CHALLENGE, and we are
looking for widespread mutual cooperation as such an extraordinary coincidence
opens up many possibilities that must be used to good advantage.
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BIO-BIO wheelhouse and forward saloon
BIO-BIO casing and anchor windlass
BIO-BIO officer’s and crew accomodation
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BIO-BIO steam rudder engine and funnel
BIO-BIO engine room telegraph and top of triple expansion engine
BIO-BIO casing and wheelhouse
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TRIUNFADOR casing and wheelhouse
TRIUNFADOR front of casing and forward saloon, with beautifully preserved original
panelling and upholstery
TRIUNFADOR boiler burners and triple expansion engine
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TRIUNFADOR triple expansion engine crankshaft and connecting rods
Interesting views comparing TRIUNFADOR and the British tug CHALLENGE both built by
the same yard Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd. The results of restoration work are selfevident.
Under deck saloon on TRIUNFADOR and CHALLENGE
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Steam engine pressure gauges on TRIUNFADOR and CHALLENGE
Condenser circulating pump and ballast pump on TRIUNFADOR and CHALLENGE
Steam tugs BIO-BIO and TRIUNFADOR, Santa Fe, Argentina, 23 January, 2013
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Every major preservation project requires the community’s full support. The Histarmar
Foundation has sofar fully committed itself in regard to the initial preparatory phases,
in the belief that the last two steam tugs in Argentine waters must survive to be
admired by present and future generations. This vision has fortunately been
accompanied by domestic shipowner Marítima Maruba and by various institutions and
fellow associations who share our love for history and maritime activity. However, we
do need institutional, material and financial support to progress further in our
preservation work. We are hereby calling on those organizations, agencies, companies,
government officials and individuals who might share our devotion to maritime history
in general, and the continued preservation of TRIUNFADOR and BIO-BIO in particular.
We therefore kindly invite you to contact the Foundation as per the following details:
Fundación Histarmar
Registered on 15 July, 2011 in IGPJ of the province of Buenos Aires.
Ledger: 168405 CUIT 30-71203724-1
Administration address: Necochea 2432 B1640BRX Martinez
President: Carlos J. Mey
+54 11 4792326
Mobile: +54 9 11 31159340
[email protected]
Vicepresident: Ignacio Amendolara Bourdette
+54 11 48240315
Mobile: +54 9 11 31597937
[email protected]
Project Director: Guillermo C. Berger
Mobile: +54 9 11 61174345
[email protected]

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