Waterway Operative

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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.

The Work

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:


The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:

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.


Workforce Employment Status

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Getting In

What Does it Take?

You need to be:

You need to have:


Getting On

With experience, you could become a supervisor or manager. You might have to move to another part of the country to do this.


Courtesy of Canal & River Trust


The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

Scottish Canals
Tel: 0141 332 6936
Twitter: @scottishcanals

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