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Fishing vessel skipper

Fishing vessel skippers are in charge of boats that catch fish at sea. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £10,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need at least 18 months’ experience as a deckhand at sea before you can become a skipper. Good health, hearing and colour-normal vision are also essential.

You’ll need to have completed mandatory basic safety training. This covers:

  • sea survival
  • health and safety
  • first aid
  • fire fighting

After two years’ fishing experience you’ll also need to complete the Safety Awareness and Risk Assessment course. To become a skipper you’ll need to complete the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) Certificate of Competence.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and industry body Seafish have information about safety training and approved training providers.

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • basic electronics and engineering skills
  • the ability to lead and manage a team working in often difficult conditions
  • the ability to remain calm under pressure
  • first aid skills
  • the confidence to make quick decisions in emergency situations

3. What you'll do

Fishing vessel skippers work on different types of boat, including:

  • inshore vessels, which fish close to the shoreline
  • limited area vessels, which fish within a set area around the UK coast
  • unlimited area vessels, working in distant fishing grounds in international waters

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • planning fishing voyages
  • operating and maintaining equipment
  • navigating the vessel
  • managing the safety of the vessel and crew
  • working closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch
  • making sure that fishing trips return a profit
  • making sure that each fishing trip follows maritime laws and international fishing regulations
  • using electronic systems for navigation, locating fish and monitoring onboard storage conditions

4. Salary

Starter: £10,000

Experienced: £25,000

Highly Experienced: £65,000 (larger companies)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours will vary according to which fishing areas you work in, but will usually be long and include shifts and sharing the 'watches'.

In inshore waters, you’ll usually return from sea each day. If you work around the UK coast or more distant grounds, you could be away for anything from several days to weeks or months at a time.

You’ll also spend some time onshore, repairing nets and maintaining the vessel.

Your time will be split between working on the bridge and on deck. You’ll work in all weathers and sometimes in hazardous conditions, like freezing weather, storms and gales.

Conditions onboard will depend on the type and age of your vessel. The work can be physically demanding. 

6. Career path and progression

With experience you may be able to move into related careers, like the Merchant Navy, harbour tug work, fish farming, offshore oil or gas exploration, offshore energy development, cargo operations or ferries.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017