The Tien Hsing, better known as “the tugboat of Abu Galawa”, is known to almost all divers in the Red Sea. Even so, we know relatively little about this ship. Although its identity now seems to have been determined, some shipwreck researchers have their doubts. We would, therefore, like to point out that the following information is in accordance with the latest research and is most likely correct, though it cannot be entirely confirmed.
The Tien Hsing was built in 1935 by the shipyard Ta Chung Hua in Shanghai. The steamship was designed as a harbour tug, and it is till now still unknown what led the ship all the way up to the Red Sea. Although unconfirmed, research suggests that her voyage must have taken place during the Second World War. It has been confirmed, however, that the Tien Hsing was seized by the British armed forces in 1941.
On 26 October 1943, the steamer was on its way from Suez to Massawa, when she ran aground on the reef of Abu Galawa Kebira. Why the collision took place and whether people were harmed is unknown.
Tips / Hazards
• Beautifully overgrown wreck • Easy to explore
Suitable for night dives • The boiler room behind the engine is narrow and suitable
only for experienced wreck divers
The Tien Hsing
Exploring the Wreck The Tien Hsing rightfully counts as one of the most famous wrecks in the south of the Red Sea. The former tugboat is now richly overgrown and provides an enchanting atmosphere, and because of its shallow depth and the rarity of the currents, the diving conditions are very easy and also allow for wonderful night dives.
A view of the stern
The wreck rests slightly inclined to its starboard on the reef wall. The propeller, half-buried in the sand, lies at a depth of 18 m, while the bow reaches up to the surface, or even above it at low tide. Since the hull does not fully rest on the reef, you can dive underneath it near the stern.
The most striking part of the aft is the large, open hold A over which two guide bars are mounted for the tow ropes, and at whose lowest part you can see the propeller shaft leading from the engine room to the propeller. On the starboard side, there are doors in the superstructures, the first of which A reveals a small toilet. Through the front door A or through the large front windows (see photo to the left) you can reach the ship’s spacious interior, once the helm. It has, however, rotted away a long time ago, and only the remnants of the mechanical control system can still be recognised. A lot of sweepers await divers here. The engine room with its three-cylinder steam engine is accessible through the interior, but is very narrow and should, therefore, be avoided by inexperienced wreck divers. The superstructures and the chimney on top are now beautifully covered with numerous hard and soft corals and offer splendid photo motifs.