Waterway operatives maintain and operate locks on a canal or other inland waterway and look after the areas around the waterway. They operate the lock mechanism themselves or make sure that boat crews do so correctly and safely.
Locks are devices built across a waterway, which allow boats to transfer from one level to another. The boat goes into a lock (a section of the waterway which is closed off by gates) and the water level in it rises or falls. The other end of the lock then opens to let the boat sail on to the new level. Sometimes there is a series of locks, turning the waterway into a kind of staircase for boats. Sea locks let boats travel between tidal and non-tidal waters. You could be:
registering boats and collecting fees
operating the lock mechanisms yourself or helping boat crews to do it
using hydraulic lockgear to open and close the lock gates and operating swing bridges to let tall boats through
opening sluice holes in the gate to raise or lower the water level in the lock
making sure boats in the lock do not collide as the water level changes
opening the gates when the water in the lock has reached the level of the next stretch of water so that the boats can move through
maintaining the locks, paddles, bollards and hooks to make sure they are in good working order
keeping waterways clear from obstructions, such as litter, pond weed and vegetation
helping boat crews with maps, equipment and problems, for example engine breakdowns.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Salaries for waterway operatives are usually based on the Living Wage rate, currently £10.50 per hour (October 2022). You would receive extra allowances for working flexible shifts or rotas.
Highly experienced waterway operatives covering large stretches of waterway may be able to earn more. In some cases you may also get accommodation with the job.
You would have to work outdoor in all weathers.
You would work on a rota basis which would involve weekends, or evenings.
You might work longer hours during the summer months.
Sometimes you would live and work in quite remote places.
The work can be hard and physical.
You might have to lift heavy weights.
You would have regular contact with the public as well as being responsible for the equipment.