The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames


Not everyone will qualify for an apprenticeship as apprentices have to be aged 16 years and over as well as in full time employment. Those that do not can become a trainee. Being a trainee is also open to more mature students who may well have some maritime experience. Trainees still have to be 16 years old or over. Those bound as trainees in 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. However the rules are more flexible there is no Government Funding for trainees.

Trainees can still use all or some of courses at the National Maritime Training Centre located in Gravesend or as an alternative the Company uses another training provider – the Master Workboat.  The Master Workboat provides a modular approach to training for the Boatmaster’s Licence which can keep the cost down for trainees. The Company assesses each trainee to see what maritime experience they have and which training provider might best suit the different needs of trainees according to their age and employment status. Trainees can use the Company’s in-house training and revision courses held at Watermen’s Hall.

Trainees wanting to skipper a passenger boat the length of the Thames (under 250 passengers) still need 30 months qualifying service time before they can apply to be examined but the length of time a trainee is bound can be less than that of an apprentice. When being bound as a trainee, the Company can agree with the trainee the length of the time bound taking account of experience and any maritime qualifications already held by the trainee.

Trainees can also gain a Waterman’s Certificate and ‘Freedom’ to operate on the Thames as a Journeyman having met the very highest standards. Those that have worked in the towing and pushing industry can also obtain a Lighterman’s Certificate.

Trainees can also take advantage of the Company’s offer of 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