Boatswains organise the crew on deck and at the fishing hold to execute the orders received from a superior. They coordinate the operations of maintenance, manoeuvres, assembly and repair of fishing gear and sorting, processing and preserving of the catches while observing the hygienic standards and established safety regulations.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to boatswain:

senior crewwoman
senior crewman
fisheries boatswain

Minimum qualifications

A high school diploma is generally the minimum required to work as a boatswain.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Boatswain is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Boatswain career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to boatswain.

fishing net maker
fisheries assistant engineer
fisheries master
deep-sea fishery worker
fisheries deckhand

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of boatswain. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of boatswain with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

fisheries observer
fisheries refrigeration engineer
deck officer
marine chief engineer
ship captain

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of boatswain.

  • International regulations for preventing collisions at sea: Fundamental aspects of the international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, such as the conduct of vessels in sight of one another, navigation lights and markers, major light and accoustic signals, maritime signalling and buoys.
  • Fishing gear: Identification of the different gear used in capture fisheries and their functional capacity.
  • Pollution prevention: The processes used to prevent pollution: precautions to pollution of the environment, procedures to counter pollution and associated equipment, and possible measures to protect the environment.
  • Code of conduct for responsible fisheries: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the guidelines established for professional fishers.
  • International convention for the prevention of pollution from ships: The fundamental principals and requirements laid in the International Regulation for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk, prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form, Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships, Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships.
  • Fisheries legislation: The study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches taking into account international treaties and industry norms in order to analyze fisheries management regulations.
  • Fishing vessels: Denomination of the different elements and equipment of fishing vessels.
  • Risks associated with undertaking fishing operations: General risks occuring when working on fishing boats and specific risks occurring only in some fishing modalities. Prevention of threats and accidents.
  • Quality of fish products: Factors affecting the quality of fish products. For instance, differences between species, impact of the fishing gears and parasite influence on the preservation of quality.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of boatswain.

  • Coordinate the ship crew: Coordinate the daily activities of the crew. Ensure that each member of the deck department understands and performs his/her assigned duties adequately. Assist the captain with training and orientation of new crew. Coordinate line-handling during manoeuvres. Monitor deck maintenance and safety. Plan each day’s work to achieve the most from each deck crewmember.
  • Participate in the organisation of emergency drills: Participate in preparing and executing emergency drills. Take charge of on-scene response actions. Help ensure that written drill reports are logged properly. Make sure that all personnel adhere to pre-planned emergency procedures as carefully as possible in the event of an emergency situation.
  • Preserve fish products: Place and classify fish products for proper conservation. Maintain suitable conditions for the conservation of fishery products.
  • Extinguish fires: Choose the adequate substances and methods to extinguish fires depending on their size, such as water and various chemical agents. Use a breathing apparatus.
  • Prepare fishing equipment: Dispose fishing gear and ship’s deck for successful extraction activities. Coordinate the crew in this operation.
  • Use fishing vessel equipment: Dispose fishing gear and ship’s deck for successful extraction activities as directed by the superior. Run shooting and hauling gear operations for its optimal performance.
  • Operate ship equipment: Operate ship equipment such as engines and generators, winches, and HVAC systems. Assume responsibility for all exterior equipment, as well as some interior. Ensure that deck equipment is operated safely.
  • Operate vessel critical systems: Operate vessel critical systems such as electronic navigation aids, steering, de-watering, safety apparatus. Carry out captain’s orders.
  • Apply fishing maneuvres: Run shooting and hauling gear operations for its optimal performance, complying with the regulations for responsible fishing and with the security measures.
  • Survive at sea in the event of ship abandonment: Identify muster signals and what emergencies they signal. Comply with established procedures. Don and use a lifejacket or an immersion suit. Safely jump into the water from a height. Swim and right an inverted liferaft while wearing a swim while wearing a lifejacket. Keep afloat without a lifejacket. Board a survival craft from the ship, or from the water while wearing a lifejacket. Take initial actions on boarding survival craft to enhance chance of survival. Stream a drogue or sea-anchor. Operate survival craft equipment. Operate location devices, including radio equipment.
  • Handle fish products: Handle fish with care and hygiene required to maintain quality. Adequately prepare fish products for storage.
  • Assist in ship maintenance: Contribute to shipboard maintenance and repair using painting, lubrication and cleaning materials and equipment. Execute routine maintenance and repair procedures. Dispose safely waste materials. Apply, maintain and use hand and power tools.
  • Coordinate fish handling operations: Organise fish handling operations to avoid fish products deterioration. Check the cleanliness of the deck and fishing hole before loading and manipulation. Control that the fishes are headless, gutted, washed and sorted. Perform operations taking into account health hygiene regulations.
  • Handle cargo: Manage safely the mechanical elements in the loading and unloading of cargo and stores. Stowing and unstowing of products following instructions.
  • Stand watch on vessel: Stand watch in ships’ bows, sterns, or bridge wings. Look out for obstructions in the ship’s path and locate navigational aids such as buoys. Determine geographical position of the ship, using all available means such as GPS, radar ranges, visual observations and depth sounders. Perform navigational watches while underway, and safety watches, anchor watches and dock watches at other times as deemed prudent by the Captain, in accordance with normal bridge management procedures.
  • Maintain safe navigation watches: Observe principles in keeping a navigation watch. Take over, accept and pass on a watch. Steer the vessel and perform routine duties undertaken during a watch. Observe safety and emergency procedures. Observe safety precautions during a watch and take immediate actions in the event of fire or accident.
  • Support vessel manoeuvres: Participate in manoeuvres at port: berthing, anchoring and other mooring operations. Contribute to a safe navigational watch.
  • Provide training: Provide training and orientation to new team members, or assign this task to an appropriately experienced team member.
  • Swim: Move through water by means of the limbs.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of boatswain. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Fisheries management: The principles, methods and equipment used in population management applied to fisheries: the concept of catch, by-catch, fishing effort, maximum sustainable yield, different sampling methods and how to use sampling material.
  • Assessment of risks and threats: The security documentation and any security-related communications and information.
  • Global maritime distress and safety system: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of boatswain. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Prepare inventory reports: Prepare inventory reports of sport fishing gear, skiff equipment, boatswain’s stores at the start of the season and at the end. At the end of the season, thoroughly clean and prepare fishing equipment for storage. Assist the captain in preparing end-of-season maintenance and list items that need attention during the off-season
  • Communicate using the global maritime distress and safety system: Send an alert in case of distress, using any of the various GMDSS radio systems such that the alert has a very high probability of being received by either shore rescue authorities and/or other vessels in the area.
  • Report to captain: Perform the full array of responsibilities and tasks for the deckhand, and report information regarding this orally to the master of the vessel and or the mate in the other person’s absence.
  • Use maritime English: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Evaluate schools of fish: Interprete the information provided by electronic equipment and other aid to fisheries to evaluate the characteristics of a school of fish.

ISCO group and title

8350 – Ships’ deck crews and related workers

  1. Boatswain – ESCO
Last updated on August 21, 2022

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