Notice given of plan to dismantle Ramsgate’s historic steam tug Cervia and sell off parts

The tug Cervia

The Cervia steam tug, part of the Ramsgate Maritime Museum collection, will be broken down with parts sold off in November if an alternative cannot be found.

A Declaration of Intent to Deconstruct the National Historic Fleet Vessel ‘Cervia’ has been made by owner The Steam Museum Trust.

Deconstruction means its parts – from engines to steel beams – will be sold.

The notice, on National Historic Ships UK, says: “The hull below the waterline was recognised as being in need of urgent attention and several Heritage Lottery Fund bids were drawn up to address this along with wider proposals for a refreshed maritime museum alongside.

“Frustratingly local and district councils could not guarantee to supply match funding and long-term commitment which prevented successful bids being made…

“Following extensive negotiations between the current owner and council it is now recognised that the funds and resources needed to jointly carry out the required below waterline re-plating works are simply not available in the current economic climate or timescale needed.

“Cervia is a large and important survivor; full of character and the only ‘deep sea’ steam tug built for international operation remaining in the UK, plus one of only three original steam tugs left which were used in London.

“Complete with boiler, triple expansion engine, ancillaries, fixtures and fittings, she could work either as a static museum ship or be converted to become a unique fare paying yacht with only minimal and sensitive intervention to allow her to return to sea; an option already explored in detail by owner and associates as part of previous funding bids.  There is the possibility of remaining in Ramsgate which has had a long tradition of servicing the London tug fleets.”

Photo Mike Nichols

The 350 ton vessel was built in 1946 as a seagoing tug for use as a fleet auxiliary, She is powered by a 1,000 HP triple expansion engine and is a rare survivor from the pinnacle of steam ship development.

Cervia is the last sea-going steam tug to survive in UK waters and she was also the last to work commercially, being in operation until 1983.

Her last job was as port tug to the new cross-channel ferry service at Ramsgate, providing assistance to ferries in adverse weather conditions.

Cervia was eventually ‘mothballed’ alongside the East Pier at Ramsgate Royal Harbour following a final re-fit for a towage contract in Norway, which never materialised.

The vessel featured in “Rogue Male” starring Peter ‘O’ Toole and, as the “S.S. Greasy”, in the Monty Python film “The Curse Of The Claw” with Michael Palin.

In 1985 Thanet District Council’s Harbour Master and his deputy, who had considerable experience of historic ships, negotiated a loan of the tug and arranged for Cervia to be brought into the shelter of the inner harbour where she was moored in part of John Smeaton’s Historic Dry Dock. Later that month she was placed in the care of Ramsgate Maritime Museum, run by the East Kent Maritime Trust.

The EKMT Trust was granted a Manpower Services Commission project to restore Cervia, managed and funded by a Thanet District Council agency.

In 2008 The Ramsgate Maritime Museum was closed. EKMT became defunct and the Cervia and museum was taken over by The Steam Museum Trust, under the trusteeship of Michael List Brain, after a lease was signed with Thanet council in 2012.

The SMT lease runs until 2037.

Photo Karen Cox

Ramsgate RNLI and fire crews were involved in an operation to keep the Cervia afloat in November 2018 after she started taking on water due to a ‘large hole; that the crew sandbagged. Repairs were made but the Cervia was then listed for sale in 2019 with ‘price on application’ by Preston Services.

Photo Karen Cox

If deconstruction goes ahead, a formal entry will be created for the ship on the National Archive of Historic Vessels and held, in perpetuity, by National Historic Ships UK.

Any interested parties requiring further information with a view to offering the vessel a new home at a nominal price (to be discussed) should contact: [email protected]  no later than Friday 16 September. Any expressions of interest will need to be accompanied by a sustainable proposal for future use.


  1. It’s very sad to read this. But realistically it would cost £££ just to keep her afloat, and more £££ to sustain her over the years to come.
    Without a huge injection of money from somewhere, the poor old girl’s days are numbered.
    Better that she be towed out to the Goodwins and sunk than be cut up for scrap.

  2. i would have thought the ” arts barge ” would be first in line for the chop before the cervia which at least has history and importance , what have they in mind for smeatons dock – backfilling and a block of luxury flats in its place ? , they wont be happy until they have got rid of everything around here .

  3. Where is super hero Craig when you need him? He wanted a museum of statues of dodgy folk in Thanet but he doesn’t what to save this?

    Scrap the theatre Royal, Scrap Hartsdown pool, Scrap the sturry road park and ride, scrap the stroke care at QEQM, scrap the pirate ship play area, britain seems to be moving into a scrap everything phase of its history yet up in arms it a useless statue is removed.

    Seems the majority of people just don’t care anymore.

    P&O proved works rights were scrapped. Number showed that common decency and honest has been scrapped.

    Where does it all stop!

  4. If the issue is the condition below the waterline and the danger it might sink, would a better idea be to bring it out of the water and make it a static display? It could be displayed in all it’s glory together with paid vistor access maybe to contribute to costs. There is a lot of history there and once lost will be lost forever. I think it would look great located somewhere on the crosswall.

  5. Theres plenty of money for our art sector but not alot for our industry heritage sadly.

    As someone who loves old engineering this is a shame.

  6. It’s no surprise, Michael List Brain has had Cervia advertised for sale via his Preston Steam Services company for a couple of years. It’s also the same Michael List Brain, who as primary trustee for the Steam Museum Trust, who’s the leasee for the clocktower building from TDC; a key part part of which was to maintain the clocktower and Smeaton’s Dry Dock; which we all know he’s completely failed to do with others like the Ramsgate Society stepping in to stop the clocktower roof going south, have a read of the lease document and ask why none of the maintenance has happened. I hope the levelling up funding sorts all this out, but TDC need to determine the lease before the building gets any worse, before anything else leaves the maritime museum collection…oh and before and the Stirling Castle material turns to dust too

  7. Ramsgate town council donated money to the rusty old eye sore, the so called arts barge and manston appeal fund, maybe they donate to the tug fund , oh sorry it’s not art so they are not interested

    • Erm, the Manston JR was not “arty”, either.
      Will you start a crowd funding page and kick off with a sizeable donation?

  8. Why don’t we suggest that they put TDC’s offices in Cecil Square up for sale and sell off the parts for scrap.Any takers?

        • I don’t know who “EgoSpanker” is; but in general response to your question:

          There is a number of correspondents cluttering up these pages having little understanding if issues and no original thoughts. Instead, they rely on a small mental box of what they perceive to be witty, pithy words and phrases. When they want to respond to a piece, they have a grope around their box of memes, and come up with a few bits and pieces that they cobble together, often with punctuation.
          The basic Lego blocks of their structures contain such things as “Toxic TDC”, “TDC not fit for purpose”, “Scum(bag)”, “Ferral” and so on. They don’t really have any understanding of the issues, nor know what the words and phrases mean. But they’ve seen other people write them; sometimes provoking a response. So, in their eyes, that was a result.

          You know the sort of people I’m talking about, Peter.

  9. I will have a think about this if I buy it I don’t want to be ripped off by TDC for exorbitant harbour dues I will contact people who know more about boats than I do. It definitely should not be scrapped like the rest of anything that TDC touched.

    • Please see the Facebook Group page ‘Friends of the steam tug Cervia’ as some of us out here want to do something positive about her survival or call me on 07550 083079. Dave Walton

  10. Very sad. Remember visiting this as a child on a school trip. Always been fond of it and hoped it would be preserved for more generations to visit in the future.

  11. why dont they rebadge it as the ramsgate titanic experience ? come to think of perhaps the arts barge might be a better bet

  12. I’m sure there’s a valid reason why not but would she fit in the dry dock right in front of her bows?

Comments are closed.