A coastguard tug based in Cornwall is to be scrapped as part of the government's spending review.
The emergency towing vessel, based in Falmouth, is one of four in Britain. Two are in Scotland and one in Dover.
All four were to come out of service, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) confirmed.
Their scrapping would save £32.5m over four years, the government said. The vessels are to be taken out of service from September 2011.
The tugs, which are available 24 hours a day throughout the year, are mainly deployed when vessels break down, but also have firefighting capabilities.
The MCA said: "The government believes state provision of emergency towing vessels does not represent a correct use of taxpayers' money, and that ship salvage should be a commercial matter between a ship's operator and the salvor."
The Falmouth tug covers Britain's south western approaches.