A ship's tender, usually referred to as a tender, is a
For a variety of reasons, it is not always advisable to try to tie a ship up at a dock; the weather or the sea might be rough, the time might be short, or the ship too large to fit. In such cases tenders provide the link from ship to shore, and may have a very busy schedule of back-and-forth trips while the ship is in port.
Before these ships were mass-produced, the main way to board a larger ship (mainly ocean liners) was to board a passenger tender. Passenger tenders remained based at their ports of registry, and when a ship came through the area, the tender would tie up with the ship and embark passengers on an elevated walkway. These vessels were larger, had a greater passenger capacity, and a broader sense of individuality in their respective companies than the more modern tenders seen today. Because of their increased size, lifeboats and life preservers were commonplace on board these ships (with two boats being the standard amount for an average tender).
Before the technologies that allow submarines and destroyers to operate independently matured by the latter half of the 20th century (and significantly during the
By the end of the 20th century, all of the tenders in the U.S. Navy had been inactivated except for two
Apparently not completely willing to wean itself from tenders all together – but with an eye towards reducing costs – the last two tenders remaining in active service have now been operationally turned over to the Military Sealift Command.