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Coxswains manage the operation of small commercial marine vessels, such as fishing boats, ferries, water taxis, jet boats, yachts, catamarans and tourist craft. Coxswains may operate vessels up to 12 metres in length in sheltered waters and inshore waters, that is, in waters within 15 nautical miles of the coast. Those who wish to operate larger vessels further from the coast will need to gain additional qualifications.  FutureGrowthModerate

As master of a small fishing or trading vessel, they are responsible for supervising other crew and passengers. They are also expected to lead a crew and make decisions under pressure, such as taking appropriate actions in an emergency. Other tasks for a coxswain includes maintaining the operations of engines (less that 250 Kw), updating vessel log books, assisting in mooring and unmooring vessels, and keeping watch. Commercial vessels under the command of a coxswain can include small passenger vessels, charter vessels, water taxis, tourist craft, and fishing vessels.

 A coxswain will be expected to apply their seamanship skills when manoeuvring the small vessel they command. These skills include using ropes and chains, rigging gear and loads, operating winches and windlasses, stowing and securing anchors at sea, securing a vessel in rough weather, maintaining water tight integrity, lashing and securing equipment, and towing and being towed.

Coxswains may operate vessels up to 12 metres in length in sheltered waters. Those who wish to operate larger vessels further from the coast will need to gain additional qualifications.

Maritime roles strive for gender parity in industry
March 2022


ANZSCO ID & Description: 231213: A coxswain navigates and steers a small commercial vessel.

Alternative names: Marine Transport Professional,


  • Fishing Charter Operator - manages a fishing charter business, which may include work as a coxswain.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Coxswains need:

  • to be at least 18 years old
  • willing to spend time at sea and enjoy working on the water
  • able to lead and manage a crew
  • commitment to safety
  • good health, physically fit and able to pass a medical examination
  • to enjoy working on the water
  • pass an eye test and have good colour vision
  • an aptitude for mechanics


BoatDuties and Tasks

Coxswains may perform the following tasks:

  • manoeuvre and navigate small vessels
  • consult weather authorities before planning a voyage
  • give instructions to the crew
  • communicate with passengers
  • update vessel logbooks
  • assist with mooring and unmooring vessels
  • monitor condition and seaworthiness of vessels
  • transmit and receive information by marine radio or telephone
  • respond to emergency situations
  • use navigational information and techniques to conduct a safe passage
  • service propulsion systems, low-voltage electrical systems and auxiliary systems
  • operate pumping systems, and outboard and inboard diesel engines.

Working Conditions

Coxswains can be expected to work irregular hours, including shift work, and can be expected to remain on duty for long periods. Conditions on board may be uncomfortable and dangerous in rough weather. Living in close quarters with the crew, the coxswain needs good communication and team working skills to assist in maintaining morale.

Tools and Technologies

A coxswain needs to have a working knowledge of the small vessel they command, including knowing how to service auxiliary systems, and carry out servicing of low voltage electrical systems and propulsion systems on board. They work with navigation equipment and marine radio and telephone equipment.


Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a coxswain, you must obtain a Certificate of Competency (Coxswain) from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). This involves completion of the AMSA approved qualification and specified sea time. You can also complete a traineeship, known as the Maritime Operations (Coxswain Grade 1 Near Coastal). This traineeship takes six months to complete and is available as a school-based traineeship.

Alternatively, you can complete a Certificate II in Maritime Operations (Coxswain Grade 1 Near Coastal) through a registered training organisation recognised by AMSA. fishing boat

Additional Information

To work as a coxswain you will need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Authority (AMSA). To be eligible, you must be at least 16 years of age, complete minimum sea service requirements, hold a current Provide First Aid Certificate and meet specific medical and eyesight standards. You must also hold a Marine Radio Operator's VHF Certificate of Proficiency. Visit the AMSA website for more information.

Once you are employed, you may be able to develop, and have recognised, additional skills under the Maritime Training Package that will expand your career opportunities within this industry.

Employment Opportunities

Coxswains usually start their careers in the maritime industry as deckhands before gaining enough experience to sit the Coxswain Certificate of Competency test. Possible employers include fishing charters, tourism operators, government organisations and offshore mining companies. With further training and experience, coxswains may work in the deck or engineering department of near coastal or blue water vessels.

Did You Know?

The Coxswains certificate builds on topics learnt in the General Purpose Hand.  Coxswains learn: basic navigation, engineering, legislation, Collision Regulations, vessel handling, basic stability, radio communication, refueling, environmental considerations in their certificate.


Coxswains typically work driving water taxis, skippering yachts, work boats, diving vessels Fisheries vessels.

Many people that volunteer for rescue associations also hold a Coxswain's Certificate.

Some Coxswains continue to work as deckhands on larger vessels and gain seatime towards a Master Five.
(Source: Oten Maritime)



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