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Overview of the role

Ensuring the safe operation and passage of a vessel.


Reference Number: ST0621

Details of standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in the Maritime industry and covers a wide range of commercial activity on inland tidal and non-tidal waterways such as (but not limited to) the Rivers Thames, Humber and Mersey.  Boatmasters often navigate vessels through busy and highly challenging waterways. Opportunities in this industry are very wide-ranging - for instance, a Boatmaster could be the captain of a single vessel tourist boat or could be working for a large freight operator, responsible for safely moving freight up the river to a port.

Inland Waterways vessels might typically operate within a limited navigational area based around a standard working day. However regulations also allow the Boatmaster to navigate a limited distance out to sea. Inland waterways vessels come in all shapes and sizes but are usually designed for short riverine or inshore trade, never more than 5 miles from land or 15 miles from the point of arrival and/or departure. Boatmasters are therefore, rarely out of sight of land. Vessel types include but are not limited to vessels from the freight and civil engineering sector and passenger boats that carry up to 12 persons on board.

The broad purpose of the occupation is to ensure safe operation and passage of the vessel. A Boatmaster is responsible for, and has command of, commercial passenger or non-passenger (freight and ‘other service’) vessels and all those on board.

In their daily work, a Boatmaster interacts primarily with other Boatmasters, crew and any passengers, other vessels and emergency services. Much of their time will be spent on the water. Boatmasters can expect to work outdoors in all weathers  A Boatmaster is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the vessel, ranging from the equipment on-board through to mechanics. The Boatmaster must plan their navigation, handle the vessel, and ensure safe mooring/anchoring.

The Boat Master will lead their crew and will report to the vessel owners. Often, there is just one Boatmaster on board, but dependent on the type of vessel there can be two or even more Boatmasters present; in these circumstances just one of the Boatmasters will be appointed Captain (in overall charge).

Career options are many and varied - depending on how a Boatmaster wants to specialise in future they will need to gain additional "endorsements" (certificates from the MCA) - such endorsements sit outside this Apprenticeship. As example, the Tier 1 Level 2 Licence alone does not allow for command of a towing vessel or a passenger vessel that carries more than 12 persons on board.

This Apprenticeship provides for full competency in the Boatmaster occupation, but Apprentice Boat Masters must also obtain a Boat Master licence from the Maritime Coastguard Agency so they can lawfully operate a vessel. The Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmasters Licence is the highest standard attainable and all Apprentices must attain this licence before moving forward to End-Point Assessment.

Typical job titles

Typical job titles include Boatmaster, Skipper, Captain, Waterman

Entry requirements

Every apprentice without exception will need to  pass the MCA’s strict ML5 medical requirements. This medical examination will find out if you have a health condition that could result in you needing urgent treatment, or potentially put fellow crew or passengers’ lives at risk. This test includes, but is not limited to, severe deafness or difficulty communicating by radio or telephone, eyesight or colour vision that does not meet standards, and conditions that limit mobility and stamina. Beyond this, individual employers will determine their own selection criteria but should satisfy themselves the apprentice can meet the vocational requirements of their apprenticeship.

Occupation duties



Duty 1 manage the maintenance and safe use of mooring equipment, anchors, winches, Life Saving Apparatus, Fire Fighting equipment and gangways. To use maritime nomenclature and an appreciation of the principles of basic ship construction.

K1 K2 K4 K9 K12 K13 K14

S1 S2 S5 S7

B6 B7 B8

Duty 2 Put in place a vessel management plan for ensuring the vessel is seaworthy.

K1 K4 K5 K12 K13 K14

S6 S7 S8 S9 S10

B1 B2 B6 B7 B8

Duty 3 Maintain good housekeeping of the vessel and ensure that all essential victualling has taken place.

K1 K12

S1 S5 S6 S7 S8 S9 S10

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B8

Duty 4 Check all mechanical equipment, engines, generators, pumps etc. and perform maintenance and minor repairs. Continued monitoring of the mechanical equipment is also required as well as defect reporting and resolution.

K1 K8 K13 K14

S1 S5 S7 S8 S10

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B8

Duty 5 Ensure that the safety management system is up to date and the vessel’s essential certification is in order. This will include the ability to produce a risk assessment and engage in the company’s reporting procedures. This will also include reference to industry legislation, guidance, Codes and Notices that relate to health and maritime safety and protection of the environment.

K1 K4 K5 K7 K14

S1 S2 S6 S8 S9

B1 B2 B3 B6 B7 B8

Duty 6 Communicate with other vessels, emergency services, vessel traffic services, search and rescue coordinators and crew on board. To communicate through reporting procedures with vessel owners and regulatory stakeholders in the aftermath of accidents, incidents and the development of any on board defects.

K1 K5 K7

S2 S5 S6 S7 S9 S10 S11

B2 B3 B5 B6

Duty 7 handle the vessel competently in tidal and non-tidal environments and to take account of the effects of interaction, set, unusual currents and wind. To handle the vessel in a manner that is considerate of other river users and to be aware of the effects of using too much power in busy waterways, especially to the environment.

K3 K4 K8 K9 K10 K11 K12 K16 K17

S3 S4 S7 S10 S12 S15 S16

B2 B5 B8

Duty 8 handle the vessel both with and against the tide in high traffic density and amongst fixed hazards such as bridges whilst utilizing common propulsion systems.

K3 K4 K8 K9 K10 K11 K12 K16

S3 S4 S10 S12 S16

B2 B5 B6

Duty 9 abide by the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea and take appropriate action in respect of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) Buoyage system A.

K1 K5 K7

S2 S3 S4 S7 S11

B1 B2 B3 B5 B7 B9

Duty 10 Ensure that all crews are fit to work, competent, working safely and well rested.

K1 K3 K6 K15

S1 S7 S8 S9 S10

B4 B6

Duty 11 ensure that the crew’s qualifications meet the operational requirements of the vessel and its activity.

K1 K3 K6 K15

S1 S7 S8 S9 S10

B4 B6

Duty 12 ensure safe access and egress for all persons that board the vessel including pilots, company employees that are not part of the crew and other persons (up to 12) in accordance with the BML regulations, local bylaws, local directions, codes and pilotage requirements.

K2 K4 K5 K6 K8 K9 K15

S1 S4 S7 S9 S10 S13

B6 B7

Duty 13 plan voyages in tidal and non-tidal waters and a limited distance  to sea and select suitable watch keeping arrangements, escape routes/safe havens having considered regulations, maritime behaviours, local publications and guidance.

K1 K3 K5 K6 K9 K10 K14 K16 K17

S9 S10 S14 S15 S16 S18

B1 B6 B7

Duty 14 manage log entries, chart publications and any electronic navigational aids including ways to obtain a sounding.

K3 K5 K6 K11



Duty 15 Use charts to find a position, calculate a course to steer and calculate safe clearance both above and below the vessel.

K6 K10


B1 B6 B7

Duty 16 obtain and interpret a weather forecast as required, both before and during a voyage. Take suitable action in the event of predicted/actual worsening weather or reduced visibility.

K1 K6 K9 K11 K17

S1 S7 S13 S15 S16


Duty 17 Ensure that emergency procedures are understood and that the crew are prepared to act in the event of something going wrong. To record the preparedness of the crew and their ability to execute their responsibilities in keeping drill records up to date in the Safety Management System. These should include the following scenarios at a minimum; •       Fire  •   Man Overboard •     Loss of Power/Steering •            Grounding/Collision •            Assisting other vessels  •            Medical •          Abandon Ship

K1 K5 K7

S2 S9 S11 S12 S18

B2 B5 B7




K1: All Health and Safety Law that pertains to the safe management and passage of a commercial vessel.

K2: All appropriate terminology, uses and applications of rope work, access and lifting gear that could be used on board. Maintenance of ropes and lifting equipment.

K3: How a passage plan is executed with all the seamanship skills necessary for that voyage to be undertaken safely, securely, and with consideration to the environment.

K4: The processes for safely and securely anchoring a vessel.

K5: All International Maritime Organization Conventions e.g. SOLAS, MARPOL, COSWP and IRPCS needed so that a passage plan may be executed appropriately. Company procedures on the bridge. IALA Buoyage ‘A’

K6: Find a position/plan a route using chart work, electronic navigational aids, publications and navigational tools. To appraise available information, plot, execute and monitor progress whilst recognising when pro-active actions are most suitable.

K7: Understand relevant regulations and company policies to follow in the event of an emergency. The role of the M.A.I.B

K8: All aspects of ship maneuverability including steering systems and their functions, steering by compass and the responsibilities and implications of locks, docks and bridges.

K9: How the use of propulsion and steering systems varies in different tidal, fluvial and sea-going conditions including poor weather.

K10: How to use maritime publications and charts to plan a voyage, find a position and set a course. To know how to access the resources available to keep such publications up to date

K11: A basic understanding of the principles of using Radar, its limitations and other supporting navigational aids that are commonplace. Principles of communication between vessels and amongst crews.

K12: Legislation, codes and guidance in vessel operations and vessel construction. To know how to keep and execute maintenance plans in regards to deck machinery and to affect ship stability. To understand factors that affect seaworthiness and survivability.

K13: General engineering practice and procedures, including pumping and associated control systems and electrical equipment.

K14: How to apply legislation and guidance to prevent pollution of the marine environment and has knowledge of policies and procedures for vessel operations.

K15: Basic equality and diversity legislation awareness and how this relates to the workplace.

K16: Basic awareness of their organisations overall business objectives. Understands how own role & the vessels they work on contribute to the financial viability of the organisation.

K17: Forecast weather, recognise and interpret deteriorating conditions and review a passage plan accordingly whilst taking action on board to be able to complete the voyage or reach a safe haven.


S1 Take responsibility for the vessel sailing securely and cleanly and for the safety of all persons on board, including safe means of access to/egress from the boat.

S2 Respond and manage all emergency situations on board.  Control deployment and operations of emergency equipment appropriate to the situation.  Maintain and operate lifesaving and firefighting equipment and administer emergency first aid and coordinate with the coastguard in the event of a medevac if required.  Support vessels’ senior staff with technical expertise and knowledge of operations (and third party operations) during emergencies. Coordinate response in the event of an emergency.

S3 Handle a vessel in a high traffic density environment in tidal and non-tidal conditions including in locks and in the vicinity of weirs, bridges and other fixed infrastructure.

S4 Manoeuvre vessels safely with a variety of propulsion systems including single screw, twin screw, variable pitch, Schottel and other propulsion configurations.

S5 Carry out and prioritise deck operations, complying with regulations and company procedures. Ensure vessels are operated and remain in a safe and seaworthy condition in accordance with regulations and company procedures and are operated safely meeting all necessary regulatory standards.  Check and maintain machinery, deck equipment, Windlasses, ropes in full operational condition, anchor handling, survey activities, transfer of personnel and equipment.  Maintain machinery including main engines and deck equipment in full operational condition.

S6 Apply basic IT skills to enable appropriate work and statutory information to be recorded on vessel and organisational IT systems.

S7 Collaborate with others by acting as a team player when operating as part of a wider team.

S8 Successfully implement compliance frameworks for the technical management of vessels, crew safety and protection of the environment such as SOLAS, MARPOL, ISM Code, STCW, ILO MLC, MCA, ISO requirements and workforce health and safety legislation.

S9 Build, manage and lead your team onboard, developing work relationships and performance management skills to support the delivery of consistently high standards.

S10 Communicate effectively and professionally with all levels within and across the organisation [company] both at sea and on shore.  Positively challenge to effect change where appropriate. Able to interact [and influence] a range of stakeholders. Communicates appropriately taking full account of age, disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.

S11 Plan, communicate and lead procedures in the event of an emergency situation.

S12 Able to manoeuvre a vessel in all conditions to respond to all types of emergency (e.g. man overboard).

S13 Use appropriate mooring configurations and equipment in relation to the prevailing tidal, weather conditions and vessel design characteristics.

S14 Select a suitable anchorage and executing the procedure as required. To use an anchor(s) to aid in maneuvering.

S15 Prepare for meteorological impacts affecting the safe management and passage of a commercial vessel.

S16 Navigate shallow and height restrictive navigations using knowledge of depths, air drafts, vessel dimensions and tide predictions in tidal waters.

S17 Offer emergency assistance to help another vessel running into danger. To arrange an emergency tow or offer some powered assistance to reach safety.

S18 Adjusts appropriately the passage plan of the vessel under their command, taking account of safety, time and business objectives.


B1: Self-motivated with the ability to work independently and with integrity.

B2: Takes personal responsibility for their actions, and shows resiliance in their leadership style.

B3: Role models what's expected of the crew through their own personal conduct

B4: Seeks out where appropriate development opportunities for the crew.

B5: Calm and effective under pressure.

B6: Implementer of best practice in safety management. Promote and adopt a safety culture within the organisation, taking responsibility for effective problem-solving, emergency response and safeguarding the company’s reputation. Looks to safeguard their organisations reputation and commercial viability.

B7: Enable their own professional development, seeking opportunities to enhance their knowledge, skills and experience.  Keeping abreast of current industry advances.  Maintaining awareness of new regulations and compliance requirements.

B8: Sympathetic to the protection of the marine environment from pollution.

B9: Role-models equality and diversity expectations and requirements - always seeks to treat everyone fairly and equally.


English and Maths qualifications

Apprentices without level 2 English and maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking the End-Point Assessment.  For those with an education, health and care plan or a legacy statement, the apprenticeship’s English and maths minimum requirement is Entry Level 3. A British Sign Language (BSL) qualification is an alternative to the English qualification for those whose primary language is BSL. 

Other qualifications

Mandatory qualification 1: Non ECDIS (non Electronic Chart Display and Information System)

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 2: Human Element, Leadership and Management at Operational level “HELM(O)” certificate

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 3: Crisis Management and Human Behaviour Certificate

Level of qualification: 2


Mandatory qualification 4: RYA  Commercial Endorsement for Powerboat 2

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 5: Diploma in Maritime Studies: Rivers, Inland Waterways and Limited Distances to Sea – SQA 601/0021/7

Level of qualification: 2


Mandatory qualification 6: Boat Masters Licence (BML)

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 7: RYA or MCA Yachtmaster Coastal Skipper Certificate of Competence

Level of qualification:  


Mandatory qualification 8: Commercially endorsed Day Skipper (theory and practical)

Level of qualification: 2


Mandatory qualification 9: RYA/MCA GMDSS Short range communication certificate

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 10: Stability 1 day

Level of qualification:  


Mandatory qualification 11: STCW Personal Survival Techniques

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 12: STCW Basic Fire fighting and Fire prevention

Level of qualification:  


Mandatory qualification 13: STCW Elementary first aid

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 14: STCW Proficiency in security awareness

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 15: STCW Personal safety and social responsibility

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 16: Diesel engine AEC1

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 17: MSN 1853 Radar endorsement

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 18: SQA unit FA60 54 Vessel rope work, anchoring and mooring operations

Level of qualification: 3


Mandatory qualification 19: Professional Practices and responsibilities

Level of qualification: 2


Mandatory qualification 20: Coastal Skipper (Theory and Practical)

Level of qualification: 3

Additional details

Occupational Level: 3
Duration (months): 24


This standard will be reviewed after three years.


Crown copyright © 2021. You may re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence. Visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence

Status: Approved for delivery
Level: 3
Reference: ST0621
Version: 1.0
Approved for delivery: 4 November 2019
Route: Transport and logistics
Typical duration to gateway : 24 months (this does not include EPA period)
Maximum funding: £24000
Trailblazer contact (for apprenticeship standard content and trailblazer membership queries only): rachel.debont@pla.co.uk
Employers involved in creating the standard: City Cruises, Port of London Authority, Thames Shipping, Cory Riverside, Briggs, GPS Marine, Livetts, Thames Clippers, London Port Health, Stuart Line Cruises, S Walsh & Son, Capital Pleasure Boats, Thames Rockets, Greenslade, JJ Prior, London Duck Tours.
LARS Code: 522

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