The RUST Tugboat Guide

What is the RUST Tugboat and what is it used for?

The RUST Tugboat is the largest player-controlled aquatic vehicle in the game. It was introduced in the Deep Sea Update and is the first of any vehicle to allow players to build and deploy objects on and inside of it. These boats can be used as floating, securable, and movable bases, enabling players to take to the seas and perform various operations, from crafting, storing, and hauling loot to raiding and more.

The RUST Tugboat Floating at Sea

While it cannot be weaponized with electronic turrets, small and large teams will find using the Tugboat as a temporary storage facility and a significant personnel transport system. Early player reviews also give it bonus points due to built-in lighting and being considerably more challenging to destroy than similar aquatic vehicles, like the submarines.

How to get a Tugboat in RUST

You can get a Tugboat in RUST by going to the Small and Large Harbor monuments, where they spawn alongside the piers. Both monuments have two individual spawn points, where the boats will appear, if they haven’t been taken already by other players. Use the overhead images above to see their exact spawn locations for each monument.

At the time of writing, there is no server convar for controlling the total number of available Tugboats on a server. The number of Harbor monuments on a given map will determine the total number of available on a RUST server. The Tugboats will respawn within 30 minutes of being destroyed.

Note: A known bug also causes additional boats to respawn at the Harbor monuments when a server is restarted. How does this happen? Assume a map has two Harbor monuments with a total of four Tugboat spawn points, and those tugs were sailed and secured away somewhere else. Then the RUST server crashes and is forced to restart. Four NEW tugs will spawn at the Harbor monuments, regardless of how many are active on the server. This has confused many RUST players regarding how many should be available.

When venturing out to find a Tugboat in RUST, be sure to bring Low Grade Fuel with you, as it is necessary to operate it. Unlike other boats in RUST, they cannot be purchased from the Fishing Village monument vendors. They must be found at spawn points or acquired from other players who already possess them.

It’s important to note that inside each Harbor monument are also the old and dormant tugs, which are non-operational. You can identify them by the sealed white doors on the wheelhouse and quarter’s entry points.

Tugboat authorization system

The RUST Tugboat Authorization System
Authorize first to gain building access

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the idea of being able to deploy things on a vessel brings to mind worries that griefing and unauthorized players might be able to infiltrate with little to no problem and steal all of a group’s goodies.

Fear not! The development team has you covered.

Similar to on-land bases, there are three default door slots on which players may place either variety of single doors, adding locks as well.

Before any of that can happen, however, there is a unique authorization system in place. Players must first go to the wheelhouse, access the captain’s controls, mount the boat, and hold the E keyto authorize the ship. After this is done, a standard auth/de-auth menu wheel will become accessible. Once a player has authed and is mounted on the Tugboat controls, they can press the F key to turn the forward light on and off.

Consistent with on-land base mechanics, no player may place or deploy any entity onboard the Tugboat until authorization is established and may not put anything down if an enemy were to clear that authorization after the fact.

Tugboat deployable items list

A view inside the cabin with deployables placed
Deploy items inside the large cabin

As mentioned, there was considerable excitement within the RUST community, especially during the Aux02 Staging Branch portion of the testing. Unfortunately, many cool, early concepts were squashed right before launch.  

Below is a comprehensive list of all entities players can deploy and use when building on the Tugboat, some by default and some by placing them on top of other entities as described. Remember that future patches and updates could potentially result in this list drastically altering and electrical being reinstated to the mechanics.

Items that can be placed on the Tugboat in RUST include:

Construction

Item

Traps

  • Shotgun Trap (On Salvaged Shelves and door frame, probably not intended)

Misc

Electrical

  • Just about every within-size electrical component may be deployed either on the occupied door frame, Rug, or on a Salvaged Shelf. Unfortunately, all electrical, industrial, and water porting functions are disabled while on the Tugboat, making them virtually useless.

Fun

Regarding where you may deploy these entities, size is probably the biggest limiting factor. Quite a few areas are 100% no-place zones, such as on stairwells and just outside the wheelhouse. There are also considerable limitations along the boat’s railing, smoke stack, and communications relay.

The port and starboard bow and the port and starboard quarters are extremely particular about deployables, but things like Lanterns might be placeable. Again, it comes back to the size of the deployable.  

RUST Tugboat stern item placement spaces
Deploy items on the stern or back side of the boat

Towards the stern of the boat, the quarterdeck is probably the most manageable exterior area to deploy things like chairs or lights. It is the most spacious external, semi-flat area from which players will more than likely engage in combat.

While defensive deployable partitions are minimal, both the concrete and sandbag barricades are options here and may be deployed in advance for on-deck protection.

Along either side of the boat are structural half-floor height boundaries, acting both as handrails and bullet absorbers in the event of a fight. This area is highly limited concerning entity deployment.

RUST Tugboat aft side item placement space
Deploy items on the bow

The bow, or front of the boat, is about half the size of the stern but can facilitate several deployables for those really trying. It is worth mentioning that a Salvaged Shelf may be placed partially inside the front-most staircase and might further extend the type of deployables available to you.

The RUST Tugboat Wheelhouse
The wheelhouse or control room

Heading up those same stairs, we are once again highly restricted in movement and deployment due to the narrow decking that wraps around the wheelhouse. While deployables aren’t allowed within this room itself, player-owned doors may be added to both sides for a more secure voyage experience.  

RUST Tugboat item placement on top side
There is space to squeeze boxes if you try

Moving on, we come to the sole smokestack area, eager to accept even more boxes or whatever else you might wish to deploy on its deck, a ladder leading up to an empty rope deck, before reaching the final ladder to the top deck with the non-functional radar beacon.

All of these decks will facilitate small to medium deployables and may act as perches in the event of a pirate attack.   

Tugboat repair and durability

Let’s be honest for a second; you wouldn’t board a plane in the real world without knowing that there was some type of regulatory system in place to ensure its maintenance and durability. Why would you get on a ship in a game without the same assurances?

To help ease some of those worries, we have compiled a quick reference chart to demonstrate just how much it would take to sink your new favorite recreational vehicle.

The RUST Tugboat has 3000 Hit Points. You can repair it by hitting it with a Hammer, and having Wood and Metal Fragments in your inventory. It can be repaired 30 seconds after it was last damaged.

Tugboat Damage Chart

All damage calculations in the damage chart below were done based on this number. While fire-based ballistics are included, their damage is impact-based only, as the Tugboat is immune to fire.

Ammo TypeDamage Per RoundTotal Rounds Required
Pistol Ammo0.3758,000
5.56 Rifle Ammo0.6464,644
Incendiary Rocket1.22500
Molotov Cocktail1.71765
Explosive 5.56 Rifle Ammo4.15723
40MM HE Grenade30.05100
Satchel Charge56.554
Rocket193.216
Torpedo263.212
HV Rocket277.511
MLRS309.410
Timed Explosive Charge3858

Tugboat decay system

By default, RUST Tugboats will decay 36 hours after spawning into the game. This decay timer will reset if the boat is interacted with by any player, in which its decay timer is delayed for an additional 24 hours from the point in time of interaction.

They will decay fastest when they are outside and not in the confines of a player-made base. When docked and covered in a player-made base, their decay speed will significantly reduce. Conversely, when a Tugboat fully decays or is destroyed, it will sink to the ocean floor and leave a “corpse” behind for 2 hours.

The RUST Tugboat decay system is mostly controlled by a few console variables, which RUST admins can modify in their server settings.

ConvarDefault ValueDescription
tugboat.tugdecayminutes2160How long before a tugboat loses all its health while outside
tugboat.tugdecaystartdelayminutes1440How long until decay begins after the tugboat was last used
tugboat.tugcorpseseconds7200

How to add an airlock to a Tugboat

Whether your base is on land or afloat in the sea, having an airlock is a necessity. With a Tier 1 Workbench, a Locker, a Door, and two locks, you can quickly set up an airlock to strengthen your Tugboat base.

Frequently asked questions

Can you repair a sunken Tugboat in RUST?

No. Once sunk, they cannot be repaired.

Can you build on or inside a Tugboat?

You cannot build in the traditional sense, but you can use a limited set of deployables.

Can you place turrets on a Tugboat?

No, turrets cannot be used in the vanilla game. 3rd party mods can be used to add this functionality.

Can you land and sail with a Minicopter on the Tugboat deck?

Yes, technically, you can land a Minicopter. Note, however, that it’s very buggy, depending on your placement.

How many Torpedos does it take to sink a Tugboat?

It takes 12 Torpedos to sink a full-health Tugboat in RUST.

Final thoughts on the RUST Tugboat

With the Tugboat being a new system using older features, it is only a matter of time before new exploits are discovered and bugs are patched.

We truly hope that you found some of this information educational, if not potentially broken or exploitable, and we encourage everyone to come up with the most innovative loadouts they can and then share them with us directly on our Discord. We will do our best to update the listed mechanics as the developer changes things.

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About No Limit Llama

An aspiring woodworker and web designer. Father, husband, and Rust veteran. Llama has written op-eds and official game documents for over two decades. The earliest writings were on Asheron’s Call, followed by World of Warcraft and eventually Rust. The vast majority of his indoor time is spent running Rust servers or helping friends with their Rust-related projects. He enjoys working around the house, continuing his education when time permits, and creating new processes to simplify activities of daily living for his friends and family. He has an incredible wife, a dog, three children, and one granddaughter.

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