The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames


Here at Waterman’s Hall we facilitate the development of competent and highly skilled river craft Masters and crew. We pride ourselves on our ability to navigate in close quarter situations on the UK’s, if not Europe’s, busiest stretch of Inland Waterway. Last year there were nearly 10 million passenger journeys on the Thames and over 5 million tonnes of cargo transported on the tideway. Nowhere else on Inland waterway navigation does there exist such a mix of freight and passenger vessel activity. Add to the challenge the fact that leisure vessels, cruise liners and Shipping from around the world share our river, 30 bridges cross the Thames obstructing the river traffic and that the tidal characteristics can restrict our ability to move from place to place, so you can see navigation can be quite a challenge.

Currently the Watermen’s Company encourages training for the Boatmaster’s licence through the National Maritime Training Centre located in Gravesend.  Apprentices have to be aged 16 years and over as well as in full time employment. Those that do not qualify for an apprenticeship can become a trainee. Once the apprentice has received their training modules, they are encouraged to attend the revision sessions at Watermen’s Hall in preparation for their examinations. This has been working very well and the pass rate has increased as a result. The Study Group at the Watermen’s Hall work on chartwork, passage planning and ship management. These are topics that have traditionally caused the greatest challenge for the apprentices.  The sessions also cover the basics of vessel handling, buoyage, lights, shapes, Collision prevention Regulations.

Those bound to our training schemes obtain a Tier 1 Level 2 UK Boatmaster’s Licence, specialist endorsements including the Thames Watermen’s Local Knowledge Endorsement and a comprehensive knowledge of the tidal river Thames from Teddington to the Estuary. Apprentices can have a Master or mentor to assist them through their training. Once completed the apprentices gain a Waterman’s Certificate and ‘Freedom’ to operate on the Thames as a Journeyman having met the very highest standard. Those that have worked in the towing and pushing industry can also obtain a Lighterman’s Certificate.

Signing your indentures. (below)


All those that pass out of our scheme will have at least 5 years of experience afloat, of which at least 2 years is on the Thames. This has been our standard for decades and continues to date. Most of those bound to the Company start between the ages of 16 and 18 and complete a 5 year apprenticeship. Passing out in your early 20’s entitles young Watermen to race in the prestigious Doggett’s Coat and Badge wager.



We continue to develop and offer training in traditional skills such as barge driving and through the activities of our Lighterage Committee, we are able to offer regular local knowledge voyages covering the whole area and sea going Sail Training opportunities in the waters around the UK.

If you are interested in signing up to one of our schemes then please get in touch by calling 0207 283 2373. You could also email the Training Officer Alex Hickman on

(Newly admitted Journeymen Freemen)



The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Watermen's Hall, 16 - 18 St-Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF

© 2019 The Company of Watermen and Lightermen