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Summary of occupation

A coxswain navigates and steers a small commercial vessel under 12 metres in length, operating within the limits of sheltered and inshore waters, that is, in waters within 15 nautical miles of the coast.

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.

ANZSCO description: A coxswain navigates and steers a small commercial vessel.
Alternative names:
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

Coxswains need:

  • to be at least 18 years old
  • to be physically fit and have good colour vision
  • an aptitude for mechanics
  • to enjoy working on the water
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Working conditions

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.

They 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.

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Salary details

On average, coxswains can expect to earn approximately $788 per week ($40 992 per year) depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As a coxswain develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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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.

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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. 

Visit the AMSA website​ for a list of approved training providers.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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