About TOW

About Transport on Water (TOW)

Transport on Water was started by a group of journeymen Lightermen and Watermen in 1974 in an attempt to reverse the decline of the traditional Lighterage industry.

By 1975 the organisation had been re-launched as an association and had gained charitable status. Members included working Lightermen and Watermen, members of the three main political parties and the House of Lords, representatives of trade unions and employers’ associations, the Port of London Authority and local authorities. Lord Aldington (chairman of the PLA) and Jack Jones (General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union) were appointed joint Presidents.

The aims of the association are as follows:

  • To reverse the decline in commercial water-borne traffic on the nation’s rivers and canals.
  • To publicise and promote the economic, social and environmental advantage of water-borne transport.
  • To encourage the training and retention of old skills and their application and adaption to improved methods of technology.
  • To press for, and obtain, a national co-ordinated transport plan.
  • To bring water-borne transport under the auspices of the Department for Transport.
  • To obtain similar financial support for water-borne transport as given to rail and road transport.
  • To promote the role of water-borne transport in the economic regeneration of London

When T.O.W. was established it decided to organise an annual Barge Event to demonstrate the traditional skills of Watermen and Lightermen in navigating these craft under oars. The event soon became established as one of the major spectacles on the River.

Admiral Alan West, Baron West of Spithead GCB DSC PC, is a loyal supporter of this unique event and recently became our Honorary President.