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.  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 training scheme. 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 020 7283 2373.

(Newly admitted Journeymen Freemen)

Binding and Admission

What is Binding?

It is simply a ceremony at which the apprentices enter into a commitment with the Company to serve an agreed period of time as an apprentice. The timeframe is likely to between 2 to 5 years (depending on age and experience) and the Master or mentor will join in by committing themselves to help and assist the apprentice. It is a lovely ceremony to which parents and friends are invited to come and support the apprentices.

What is Admission?

It is another ceremony when an apprentice, who has completed their period of binding, received their Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence with at least two specialist endorsements and having been examined by the Company for their local knowledge, are admitted to the Freedom of the Company.  In addition, they are able to receive their Watermen’s and/or Lightermen’s Certificate/s. Again, parents and friends are invited to come and support the apprentices and trainees.

 For further information or guidance, please contact Kelly

Court of Admissions –  Newly admitted Freemen in the Court Room. Below

This is a call for those who wish to be bound, to make themselves known to Kelly Lesulf by email at as soon as possible, so we can discuss the requirements and how you can meet those without physically meeting.

Application and Review Forms

The application form to be bound as an apprentice or trainee can be downloaded by clicking in the link below – or call the Hall for further guidance.

Apprenticeship-Trainee Application Form 2019

Training Surgeries and NEWS

The Company has Training Administrator and is currently recruiting for a full time Training Manager.

Ms Kelly Lesurf is your go to contact for any questions regarding Bindings and Examinations.

Come in and talk to Kelly or contact her on 0207 929 7452  her working days are Monday to Thursday.

Training Reminders

Interested in being Bound?
Call Kelly Lesurf on 020 7283 2373  to receive an application pack.

.Already Bound?

If you are interested in training towards your Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence (BML), then just contact us to discuss  what options are available to you.

if you are bound and have over a year’s experience on the river, which includes over 150 days work afloat, then it’s time to think seriously about studying to get your Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence. If you meet the criteria and are interested in having a training taster day, then please contact us.

River Trips
Several River trips are organised during the year to improve your knowledge of the River whilst meeting some of your fellow apprentices and Freemen of the  River. These are shared through the Company’s social media platforms.

Already have your Tier 1 Level 2 BML and perhaps an Endorsement?

Freedom of the Company is available on examination to apprentices who have completed their time and hold a Tier 1 Level 2 BML, with either or both a passenger or towing endorsement and the Thames Watermen’s Local Knowledge Endorsement. Check the Company Diary for dates of examining.

Vesta Scullers Head – tba

All apprentices are encouraged to enter via their rowing club.  There is a pennant for the fastest apprentice, presented at the Doggett’s Emblem & Rowing Awards in January.

MCA medical form

All apprentices are required to ask their doctor to complete the medical forms detailed below. These MUST be submitted to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen prior to attending the Court of Bindings.

To download the SEAFARER MEDICAL REPORT FORM (ML5) and ML5 CERTIFICATE please click on the link below.

Current ML5 0916