Overview of the role

Working as part of the navigation department on ships and other vessels, keeping watch and maintaining safety and security, and carrying out a range of practical tasks.

Details of standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in a wide range of specialist vessels, both commercial and military, be it carrying cargo, equipment, passengers, or crew.

Seafarer’s are employed in both the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy and the vessels they work on vary considerably in their size, type, and use. For instance, vessels might work in near coastal waters, such as certain ferries and patrol boats. Other vessels operate in deep sea waters around the world, such as container ships and aircraft carriers. Therefore, a seafarer’s responsibilities will vary between different vessels. Seafarer’s can expect to work varied shift patterns over a 24-hour rota, meaning night work is very common. And many will be expected to live on board their vessel for significant periods. Seafarers usually work as part of the navigational or deck teams on board their vessel. 

The broad purpose of the occupation is to support the vessel arriving at its destination or meeting another objective (such as unloading cargo), in line with the requirements set out by the ships Master. Seafarer’s do this by carrying out a range of operations and checks on the vessel, which is often physically demanding. Their work is key to ensuring the vessel meets its targets. Even during rest periods, a seafarer has a responsibility to respond as is appropriate during emergencies to ensure the safety of the vessel and those on board.

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with other crew a great deal. Seafarer’s can work alone but often need to work with other seafarers to complete tasks. Good communication within the team is therefore very important, but even more so because vessels are likely to include other seafarers from a range of different nationalities, cultures, and languages. 

Seafarer’s normally report to a supervisor on board their vessel. The seafarer works to instructions given to them by the supervising officer. Depending on the type of vessel, seafarer’s may also be expected to interact with passengers.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for contributing to the overall safe and effective operation of the vessel. A seafarer carries out watchkeeping duties; maintaining the safety and security of the vessel, cargo, and personnel on board; and undertaking a range of practical seafarer tasks covering rope work, anchoring and mooring activities and operations. They must adhere to safe and environmentally responsible working practices and international regulations and will have a range of security duties. A seafarer must work safely in enclosed spaces and at heights and must respond to vessel emergencies; administer emergency first aid; carry out fire prevention and fire-fighting duties; use survival techniques in the water; and operate survival craft and rescue boats.

Seafarer regulations are set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and are known as the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and are put into effect in the UK by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Passing this apprenticeship, including the mandatory qualifications and certification required, means the seafarer will be able to work on board any type and size of vessel in any part of the world.

This Apprenticeship provides for full competency in the role of a seafarer (deck rating) occupation. Apprentices wanting to advance their career may also obtain an Able Seafarer (Deck) certificate from the MCA, so they can lawfully work at the Able Seafarer level onboard a vessel. This would require a further 12 months sea time and sits outside of the apprenticeship.  

Career options are many and varied - depending on how a seafarer wants to specialise in future they will need to gain additional "endorsements" (certificates from the MCA) - such endorsements also sit outside this Apprenticeship.

Typical job titles include:

Able seafarer Deck rating Deckhand Efficient deck hand Ordinary seaman Seafarer

Entry requirements

Every apprentice without exception will need to pass strict medical requirements. 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.



K1: Health and Safety policies that set out safe working practices. Back to Duty

K2: The range of onboard equipment and their applications (for instance ropes, access and lifting gear). Back to Duty

K3: The procedures for maintaining different types of vessel equipment (for instance ropes, access and lifting gear). Back to Duty

K4: The role of the helmsman in supporting safe navigation of the vessel. Back to Duty

K5: The role of bridge lookout in supporting safe navigation of the vessel. Back to Duty

K6: Vessel anchoring procedures. Back to Duty

K7: How different vessel designs influence mooring configurations. Back to Duty

K8: The procedures for working at height in accordance with organisational requirements. Back to Duty

K9: How risk assessments and permits to work help ensure a safe working environment. Back to Duty

K10: How to respond to security issues in accordance with regulation and own organisation’s policies. Back to Duty

K11: How to respond in the event of an emergency and the associated duties involved, including use of both fixed and portable installations (Fire Fighting Appliances) and Life Saving Appliances (LSA). Back to Duty

K12: The factors that impact vessel manoeuvrability. Back to Duty

K13: How the use of propulsion and steering systems varies in different tidal, fluvial and sea-going conditions including poor weather. Back to Duty

K14: Vessel cargo loading principles. Back to Duty

K15: The controls in place to ensure risks are managed when loading cargo. Back to Duty

K16: The principles of vessel navigation and the systems used. Back to Duty

K17: The types and purpose of navigational aids. Back to Duty

K18: A range of communication methods. Back to Duty

K19: The required communication procedures for shipboard operations. (e.g. flags) Back to Duty

K20: The importance of following a maintenance plan in regard to deck machinery and fittings to affect ship stability. Back to Duty

K21: Factors that affect seaworthiness and survivability. Back to Duty

K22: Procedures and regulations for preventing pollution of the marine environment. Back to Duty

K23: Legislation and organisational policies for equality and diversity in the workplace. Back to Duty

K24: How own role & the vessels they work on contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. Back to Duty


S1: Create/adapt access to/egress from the vessel that is needed for the situation, and within the limits of own responsibilities. For example, access to vehicle decks or walkways. Back to Duty

S2: Respond to all emergency and security situations on board in line with assigned duties. Back to Duty

S3: Assist with deployment and operations of emergency equipment applicable to the situation. Back to Duty

S4: Operate firefighting equipment appropriate to the situation and in accordance with procedures. Back to Duty

S5: Administer the right emergency first aid that is applicable to the situation. Back to Duty

S6: Assist with the safe handling of a vessel in a high traffic density environment in tidal and non-tidal conditions including in ports, locks and in the vicinity of obstructions and other fixed infrastructure. Back to Duty

S7: Assist with bridge look-out duties in line with organisational procedures whilst complying with industry regulations. Back to Duty

S8: Determine which deck operations to prioritise, to meet operational objectives, while maintaining safe practice. Back to Duty

S9: Maintain vessels in a safe and seaworthy condition in accordance with regulations and procedures. Assist with maintaining vessel machinery (including deck equipment) in full operational condition. Back to Duty

S10: Work as part of a team in order to achieve operational goals. Back to Duty

S11: Identify and follow organisational/industry procedures and working practices. Back to Duty

S12: Identify and report risks in accordance with own organisation’s procedures. Back to Duty

S13: Select the appropriate communication method needed for the situation and the audience. Back to Duty

S14: Use appropriate mooring configurations and equipment in relation to the prevailing tidal, weather conditions and vessel design characteristics. Back to Duty

S15: Execute anchoring procedure as instructed. Back to Duty

S16: Minimise risks to marine pollution within limits of own operational responsibilities. Back to Duty


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

B2: Takes personal responsibility for their actions. Back to Duty

B3: Enable their own professional development, seeking opportunities to enhance their knowledge, skills and experience. Back to Duty

B4: Calm and effective under pressure. Back to Duty

B5: Promotes safety culture and best practices within own organisation. Back to Duty

B6: Promotes protection of the marine environment from pollution. Back to Duty

B7: Practices equality and diversity in accordance with organisational requirements. Back to Duty


English and Maths

English and maths qualifications form a mandatory part of all apprenticeships and must be completed before an apprentice can pass through gateway. The requirements are detailed in the current version of the apprenticeship funding rules.

Other mandatory qualifications

Award in Maritime Studies: Deck Rating – SQA Code GC6K 62

Level: 2

Certificate in Maritime Studies: Able Seafarer (Deck) – SQA Code GK54 54

Level: 2

STCW Personal Survival Techniques

Level: 2

STCW Basic Firefighting and Fire prevention

Level: 2

STCW Elementary first aid

Level: 2

STCW Proficiency in security awareness

Level: 2

STCW Personal safety and social responsibility

Level: 2

MNTB Entry into Enclosed Spaces

Level: 2

MCA approved Steering Certificate

Level: 2

Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats Certificate

Level: 2

Proficiency in Designated Security Duties

Level: 2

MCA approved Navigational Watch Rating Certificate (including 2 months statutory sea time)

Level: 2

MCA approved Efficient Deck Hand (EDH) Certificate (including 6 months statutory sea time)

Level: 2

Additional details

Occupational Level:


Duration (months):



This standard will be reviewed in 3 years.

Status: Approved for delivery
Level: 2
Reference: ST0274
Version: 1.1
Date updated: 20/02/2023
Approved for delivery: 27 August 2015
Route: Transport and logistics
Typical duration to gateway: 18 months (this does not include EPA period)
Maximum funding: £10000
LARS Code: 34

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Contact us about this apprenticeship

Employers involved in creating the standard: DFDS Seaways, Carnival UK, Holyhead Towing, James Fisher (Shipping Services) Ltd, P&O Ferries, Princess Cruises, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy

Version log

Version Change detail Earliest start date Latest start date Latest end date
1.1 End-point assessment plan, standard and funding band revised. 25/02/2022 Not set Not set
1.0 Retired 27/08/2015 24/02/2022 Not set

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