How to become a… Senior Mate

Last updated: 05 July 2016

How to become a… Senior Mate

Note: If you do not have an existing maritime qualification, please refer to the ‘Marine Operations apprenticeship’ job link in this section of the website.

Why do we need these roles on the Thames Tideway Tunnel?

During the construction of the tunnel, we are planning to transport at least 4.5 million tonnes of material to and from our sites using barges on the River Thames. This helps reduce the number of lorries on London’s roads. We will need skilled people to crew and skipper the vessels.

You will probably be working on a tug or workboat as part of a crew of three to five people. The primary operation will be the collection of soil, excavated as a result of our tunnelling activities, and its transfer and disposal at approved sites downstream.

Pre-qualified status

Alongside the recruitment and training of new marine operations apprentices, our contractors will be looking for qualified personnel with the experience to enter the supply chain at a more senior level. We will be looking for boatmasters, mates, qualified deckhands and marine engineers. You may have relevant qualifications, via work experience, if you have experience in any of the following:

• Fishing boats
• Deep sea and coastal merchant navy vessels (deck and engineering)
• Work boats for offshore oil and wind generation operations
• Coastal and tidal lighter and tugboat operations
• Inland waterways cargo and passenger operations
• Offshore powerboat and Royal Yachting Association qualifications
• Armed forces marine experience

Pay and prospects

Starting pay for a second mate is normally around £15,000 to £20,000 a year, depending on your age and employer. This can rise to around £24,000 as you become a qualified first mate. It is possible to work up to becoming a fully qualified boatmaster (skipper) by obtaining your Boatmasters’ Licence, when you would expect to earn over £30,000 with overtime on top of this.

To pilot a boat on the River Thames you also need to acquire a Local Knowledge endorsement demonstrating your navigational knowledge. Further endorsements are also available for specialist operations, such as towing and pushing barges.

Next steps

We will update this pdf when further information is available on who will be conducting marine operations for the Thames Tideway Tunnel project.


We’re committed to ensuring access to opportunities for groups under-represented in the workforce in terms of their ethnicity, gender and disability so please, give it a go if you have the skills and aptitude.