Fishing vessel skippers are responsible for managing the safe operations of fishing vessels and their crews. They perform a wide variety of technical and administrative tasks, ranging from vessel navigation to maintenance of vessel records. If you are adventurous and passionate about the sea, you could become a fishing vessel skipper.
The duties and responsibilities of fishing vessel skippers include;
- Selecting fishing grounds
- Operating fishing gear
- Ensuring the health and safety of the fishing crew
- Coordinating the repair and maintenance of fishing vessels, which can range from small, single-handed boats to large factory trawlers
- Liaising with onshore agents to ensure the sale of caught fish
- Keeping repair and maintenance records of vessels
It is important to note that fishing vessel skippers can work on the following types of vessels;
- Inshore vessels – operate close to the shoreline
- Limited area vessels – operate within the UK coast
- Unlimited area vessel – operate in international waters
Fishing vessel skippers have irregular work schedules. The number of hours they work in a week usually depends on the fishing areas in which they operate. Those operating inshore vessels typically leave in the morning and return in the evening, or vice versa. However, skippers operating limited and unlimited area vessels may be away for several days or months.
Loving the sea has its downside. While at work, fishing vessel skippers are often exposed to freezing weather, storms and string winds.
The amount of money aspiring vessel skippers earn varies according to the size of fishing vessel they operate. The following table highlights what you can expect to earn;
Size of vessel
Small to medium-sized vessel
£10,000 and £25,000
up to £65,000
Source: National Careers Service
Entering the Profession
To become a fishing vessel skipper, you must;
- Gain at least 18 months of experience working as a deckhand at sea
- Be of good health, including hearing and colour-normal vision
- Complete safety training courses in sea survival, first aid, firefighting, and health and safety
Visit the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Seafish to learn more on these training courses.
You can also enter the profession by completing a sea fishing apprenticeship programme.
Essential Skills, Abilities and Interests
To be an effective fishing vessel skipper, you should have;
- Adept knowledge of the sea and weather patterns
- Knowledge of British and international fishing regulations
- Knowledge of electronics and basis engineering
- Good management and supervisory skills
- Good practical and technical skills
- Good communication and business skills
- Good manual dexterity to lift and move equipment
Beginning fishing vessel skippers usually operate inshore vessels that are shorter than 16.5 meters in length, and move to limited and unlimited area vessels with increase in job experience. To speed up your career progression, you can obtain a Certificate of Competency and pass the MCA’s oral and practical tests. This qualifies you to steers vessels that are longer than 16.5 meters.
Other relevant courses include;
- Limited area - Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Certificate of Competency Class 2
- Unlimited area - Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Certificate of Competency Class 1.
Seafish also offers online career advancement courses in navigation, engineering and watch keeping.
Although most fishing vessel skippers are self-employed boat-owners, others work for large companies that own boats and ships.
With vast vessel skipping experience and advanced training, you can move into related careers, such as offshore energy development, Merchant Navy, cargo operations and fish farming.
To succeed as a fishing vessel skipper, you should put some focus on developing your entrepreneurship skills. You will be able to raise sufficient capital to invest in many fishing vessels, thereby increasing your chances of catching and selling more fish.
- National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations
- Scottish Fishermen’s Federation
Photo Credit - Homosassa Charters