PORT Authority of NSW has presented the family of Wiradjuri woman Shirley Smith with the bell of the tugboat named after her.

Firefighting tug Shirley Smith was one of two tugs recently retired after almost 40 years of service in Sydney Harbour, replaced by two new vessels in January.

And Shirley Smith, best known as Mum Shirl, was a prominent social worker and humanitarian activist.

Port Authority chief operating officer John Finch presented the large brass bell to Shirley Smith’s great niece Yvonne Weldon at a small ceremony in Walsh Bay.

“Port Authority is deeply grateful to the family of Shirley Smith for the honour of naming this industrious tug after her 37 years ago,” Mr Finch said.

He described Shirley Smith as “a remarkable figure”.

“Her dedication to the welfare of and tireless advocacy for Aboriginal communities stands as testament to her enduring legacy,” he said.

“It also served as an ongoing inspiration to our operations team who work tirelessly 24/7, 365 days of the year as part of Sydney’s working harbour.

“After almost four decades of steadfast service, the Shirley Smith Tug has been retired and as a token of respect, Port Authority returned the brass bell to the family of Shirley Smith to symbolise the connection between the vessel and her story.”

Ms Weldon said she remembered the launch of the tug Shirley Smith in 1987 with her great aunt by her side.

“The tug was only little compared to who she was and the legacy she left,” she said.

“Aunty Shirl was forever making sure people were okay. In this sense, the naming of the tug after her was a fitting tribute to her work supporting the community.”