Canal and River Boat Training Courses – Category ‘A’ & ‘B’ Waters. Commercial & Leisure

Our boat handling courses are certificated by the Royal Yachting Association; the ‘Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate course’; or ‘RYA IHWC’ for brevity and are aimed at commercial operators and leisure users alike. Training is undertaken on a specialist commercial vessel; Workboat ‘Eiger’.

Please advise which variation of the course is required so delivery is relevant to the type of operations you are planning to undertake.

Predominantly a commercial training organisation, Birmingham & Midland Marine Services Ltd provide training to the Canal & River Trust’s main contractors, sub-contractors, and third-party works personnel.

We also provide ‘insurance company standard’ training for private boaters, novices to ‘old hands’, and can provide the practical assessment element of the ‘International Certificate of Competency’ (ICC Practical) requirements for non-tidal / coastal boating on the continent.

In addition to RYA training provision, Birmingham & Midland Marine Services Ltd are registered as approved Training Providers for the Maritime & CoastGuard Agency, the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency.

Our narrow-beam twelve-metre workboat provides the platform for our bespoke Inland Waterways Helmsman Boat Training, following the exact syllabus of the RYA IWHC, and where required commercially, with additional specialist content relating to the commercial operation of a vessel employed on the inland waterways.

Although designed for ‘leisure’ boaters, the RYA IWHC has been recognised as an alternative to a Maritime & Coast Guard Agency ‘Boat Masters Licence’ for Category ‘A’ and ‘B’ waters for workboats and commercial operations carrying less than twelve passengers. It is a requirement of the MCA (.Gov) to hold a formal, recognised licence to work on the waterways.

Birmingham & Midland Marine Services recognise that many potential roving trader licence boat operators would like to do a more in-depth version of the course, that insurance companies are now asking for proof of competency as a Helmsman prior to issuing insurances, that many people are considering a new career on the inland waterways – So clients from outside the civil engineering, construction, utilities, maintenance, rail, environmental and ecological sectors are welcome to join us if they feel a commercially oriented two-day course is more relevant to their needs than training on ‘a holiday boat’.

Birmingham & Midland Marine Services ‘displacement craft’ skipper training courses take place at Gailey Wharf training centre, centrally located in Staffordshire, just five hundred metres from junction 12 of the M6 motorway, rail link at Penkridge, Staffordshire.

Syllabus overview.

Day 1

  • Introductions
  • Safety brief
  • Life jackets
  • Route planning
  • Vessel systems
  • Emergency procedures
  • Rescue drills
  • Deck equipment
  • Nautical terminology
  • Handling
  • Reading the channel
  • Etiquette
  • Look out duties
  • ‘Winding’ or turning
  • Emergency stops
  • Man overboard procedures
  • Rope handling, turning
  • Reversing
  • Coming alongside

Remember… We are not a residential centre / vessel so accommodation should be found locally

Day 2

  • Set up for cruising
  • Engine checks
  • Locks
  • Collision Regulations (COLREG IRPCS)
  • Grounding
  • Actions to be taken in event of a fire or first aid incident

There is an option to combine your training course with a holiday afloat on one of the Wharf’s hire fleet of narrowboats. See our ‘Leisure page’ of our website.

Experience Needed to Take this Course:


Included in the course fee:

  • RYA IWHC training book
  • RYA IWHC Photographic ID card (official passport photo required)
  • Tea’s, Coffee’s
  • All boat costs
  • RYA Instructor


A non-residential course. Solo or standard two place bookings will be joined by another / other individual(s) looking to complete the course.

If you wish to book a ‘closed course’ for two or three people training together or to make a booking inquiry, get in touch via the ‘contact page’. We are happy to offer a bespoke course for you at dates of your choosing if we are available to do so. Please ask!

RYA IWHC 1-day assessment / exam dates available throughout the year for experienced hands.

We do not offer ‘own-boat tuition’ to anyone who has not previously undertaken an IWHC on our own vessel.

Ratio: 1 instructor to 3 students maximum.

Accessibility: We welcome disabled clients but are unable to accommodate wheelchair users

Restrictions: We are a commercial / industrial / blue-light training company and cannot accept any persons under the age of 18 or considered at risk as we do not have the required safeguarding procedures or insurance cover in place