Commercial Sea Fishing

Overview

The breadth and level of occupations in sea fishing vary depending upon the size of the vessel, type of catch and area in which the vessel operate. To go to sea on a commercial sea fishing vessel, individuals must undergo statutory safety training in basic sea survival, fire fighting and first aid. In addition, skippers, mates and engineers working on fishing vessels above a certain length and engine power, or operating in certain sea areas, are required to hold statutory Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificates of Competency.

  • Skipper
  • Mate
  • Competent Deckhand (Deckie)
  • Engineer
  • Deckie Learner (Apprentice, Trainee Fisherman)
  • Superintendent Engineer

Role, Career Pathways & Qualifications

Click the links below to find out more about specific roles, career pathways and required qualifications

Roles

Inshore Area
The inshore area Skipper is in command of a small fishing vessel (under current regulations - up to a maximum of 16.5m registered length) fishing close to shore and responsible for its safe and efficient operation. The Skipper will most probably be responsible for a crew even though, as skipper, they may still share some of the deckhand duties. Inshore area skippers are responsible for small vessels fishing close to shore. There are no formal requirements other than attendance on the basic safety training courses although it is likely that the Skipper will have gained some prior experience working as a deckhand before deciding to own/skipper a fishing vessel.


Limited Area

Limited area Skippers fish within a defined area around the UK coast. The Skipper is responsible for all aspects of health and safety, crew and vessel management. This includes supervising the operation of the fishing gear, vessel navigation, deciding on the method of fishing and the area of operation, management of business arrangement with merchants, vessel owners and agents, and accurately maintaining all ship records and catch logs. The skipper may be the owner of the vessel or engaged to act as skipper by the vessel's owner(s). The Limited Area Skipper must hold the Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 certificate and have completed approved 'Medical First Aid', Radio Operation - Long Range Certificate, Electronic Navigation Systems and advanced firefighting courses. In addition, the Skipper must be physically fit with good eyesight, be aged at least 20, have sufficient and suitable experience of working on fishing vessels, possess crew management skills and an understanding of all operational aspects of a fishing vessel.


Unlimited Area

Unlimited area Skippers fish in distant fishing grounds. The Skipper is responsible for all aspects of health and safety, crew and vessel management. This includes supervising the operation of fishing gear, vessel navigation, deciding on the method of fishing and the area of operation, management of business arrangement, accurately maintaining all ship records and catch logs. The Skipper must hold the Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 1 certificate. To gain this, individuals need to provide evidence of suitable and sufficient watch-keeping service completed whilst holding the Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 certificate. They also need to have achieved 'Proficiency in Medical Care', Radio Operation General Operator's certificate, Electronic Navigation Systems, Navigation Control and advanced firefighting certificates. In addition, the Skipper must be physically fit with good eyesight, be aged at least 21, and possess crew management skills.

Career Pathways

Most Skippers in the seafish sector have worked up from a Deckie Learner, and the career progression is quite straightforward. There are, however, opportunities to move sideways or to shore-based positions.


Opportunities within the Maritime sector
A Skipper may move to a different size or type of vessel (for example inshore to limited, or unlimited area).

Shore-based opportunities include vessel support or standby vessels, fleet operations and harbour tug work.


O
pportunities in other Sectors
Experienced skippers may be able to move into related careers. These might include the Merchant Navy, oil or gas exploration, cargo operations or ferries. Other commercial vessels outside of the Merchant Navy.

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available

All new entrants require the MCA Basic Safety Training course, covering sea survival, first aid, fire fighting and health and safety for fishermen.


Inshore

Level 3 S/NVQ Marine Vessel Operation (Pathway E Skipper: Fishing) (EDEXCEL)
Leads to Seafish Inshore Skipper's Certificate


Limited Area

Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 (incl. Medical First Aid, Radio Operation - Long Range Certificate, Electronic Navigation Systems, Advanced firefighting courses)
Level 4 S/NVQ Marine Vessel Operation (Pathway C Skipper: Fishing) (EDEXCEL)


Unlimited Area

Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 1 certificate (incl. Proficiency in Medical Care, Radio Operation General Operator's certificate Electronic Navigation Systems, Navigation Control, Advanced firefighting certificate)
Level 4 S/NVQ Marine Vessel Operation (Pathway C Skipper:Fishing) (EDEXCEL)

Roles

The Mate works on large fishing vessels and helps to deputize for the Unlimited Area Skipper as chief watch commander of the vessel when required. The Mate is often tasked with the responsibility for ensuring that the fishing gear operates correctly and that the catch is stored properly. The Mate normally has expertise in health and safety, chart work and navigation, electronic navigational aids, fish finding instruments, radio communications, fishing techniques and care of the catch. The Mate must have attended courses covering the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) statutory safety training requirements in basic sea survival, first aid and fire fighting. In order to gain the Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 certificate the Mate will need to have completed approved 'Medical First Aid', Radio Operation - Long Range Certificate and advanced firefighting courses. In addition, they must have sufficient and suitable experience of working on fishing vessels, and possess crew management skills with an understanding of all operational aspects of a fishing vessel.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
With experience (usually around 5 years) a mate can study for a Skipper's certificate.

This level of seagoing experience is valued at officer-level in shore-based work. For example, a Mate might work as a training or safety officer.

The Level 3 Marine Vessel Operation qualification that a mate might have would enable transfer to officer level in the Merchant Navy.

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available

All new entrants require the MCA Basic Safety Training course, covering sea survival, first aid, fire fighting and health and safety for fishermen.


Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 certificate (incl. Medical First Aid'; Radio Operation - Long Range Certificate and Advanced Fire Fighting Certificate)

Level 3 S/NVQ Marine Vessel Operation (Pathway D Mate: Fishing) (EDEXCEL)

Roles

A Competent Deckhand is fully trained and/or experienced. They are a key member of the crew responsible for health and safety, preparing the deck and equipment for the catch, operating fishing gear and other equipment used for shooting and hauling fishing gear, repairing fishing gear, gutting and storing fish. The Deckhand might also cook for crew members and help to ensure the vessel is kept clean and tidy. On some vessels they may be encouraged to develop an interest in engineering through active assistance in undertaking routine maintenance tasks. Need to have attended the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) statutory safety training requirements in basic safety awareness, sea survival, first aid and fire fighting.

If crew is in excess of four or five, one of the competent deckhands may be in charge of the other deckhands, and would commonly be referred to as a Bosun.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Once qualified as a deckhand, the obvious career progression is to Mate. This requires obtaining a Mate's Ticket and usually around 4 years experience.

Alternatively with a Class 1 Deck Officer qualification a deckhand can convert to the Merchant Navy to study for the MCA OOW Oral.

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available

All new entrants require the MCA Basic Safety Training course, covering sea survival, first aid, fire fighting and health and safety for fishermen.


Level 2 S/NVQ Marine Vessel Support (Pathway D) (EDEXCEL)

Foundation Modern Apprentice-ship Sea Fishing (National Traineeship – Wales)

Roles

Larger vessels may have a Chief Engineer and Second Engineer. Small vessels may have a deckhand, mate or skipper who can undertake engineering duties in addition to other duties. The Engineer is responsible for health and safety, maintaining, testing and diagnosing faults with all mechanical and electrical equipment (including propulsion equipment, steering equipment, on board pumping equipment and all other machinery aboard the vessel). On vessels with an engine power of 750kw or more the Engineer will assist the Chief Engineer and will be the Second Engineer. If the Engineer is working on a fishing vessel with an engine power of 750kw or more there is a statutory requirement for the Second Engineer to hold the Engineer Officer Certificate of Competency (Fishing Vessel) Class 2 and for the Chief Engineer to hold the Engineer Officer Certificate of Competency (Fishing Vessel) Class 1.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Depending on the size of the vessel, a qualified engineer may move up to Chief Engineer.

Shore-based engineering opportunities include plant and equipment manufacturers and shipbuilding and repair yards. Experienced engineers may move to a Superintendent Engineer position. There are also a wider variety of shore-based engineering roles in the Merchant Navy.

Marine engineers also work in the Merchant and Royal Navy, and with a general engineering qualification engineers can move between sectors, for example into mechanical engineering.

Opportunities in other Sectors
There are a wide variety of shore based industries requiring engineering experience.

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available

All new entrants require the MCA Basic Safety Training course, covering sea survival, first aid, fire fighting and health and safety for fishermen.


If engine power > 750kw:

Chief Engineer to hold the Engineer Officer Certificate of Competency (Fishing Vessel) Class 1

Second Engineer to hold the Engineer Officer Certificate of Competency (Fishing Vessel) Class 2

Advanced Fire Fighting Certificate