The ST Yelta is the only working steam tug in South Australia and one of only three in Australia. It was designed and built at Cockatoo Island in Sydney and launched in 1949. Yelta was built for Adelaide Steamship Company’s subsidiary Ritch and Smith, and spent 27 years towing ships in and out of Port Adelaide before being retired in 1976.
ST Yelta represents the history of steam power. From the 1830s to the 1970s, steam played a crucial role in the history of shipping. Through the nineteenth and early 20th century, steam also played a significant role in the wider industrial history of South Australia. Steam engines powered industrial and mining machinery, generators, pumps and tractors, as well as trains and vessels.
ST Yelta’s triple expansion engine and its riveted-iron boiler are now rare examples of that industrial heritage. Its steam engine was originally built for a naval corvette during World War II but because the war ended before the corvette was completed, the engine was installed in the tug. Yelta’s coal-fired boilers were converted to oil in 1957.
Purchased by the SA Maritime Museum in 1985, ST Yelta has been restored to its former glory by an army of skilled volunteers and is located at McLaren Wharf on the Port River at the end of Commercial Road.