National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Small Craft Operator, SCOP

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 

Entry Level

These competencies identify the Knowledge and Skills necessary to operate small craft generally between 10 and 20 feet in length to transport passengers and light cargo.  Operates in good weather, on near shore protected water areas with little waterway traffic.  The Small Craft Operator performs, these duties under general supervision.

  1. Safety
    1. Orientation to on-board safety equipment
      1. Lifejackets
      2. Signal devices
      3. Throwable flotation
      4. Fire extinguishers
      5. Kill switches
      6. Instruct passengers on points of safety
  2. Equipment Operation
    1. Orientation to vessels main power steering, and auxiliary equipment
      1. Inboard/Outboard motors
      2. Hydraulic/Cable steering
      3. Compass
      4. Fuel System
      5. DC power
      6. Gauges
      7. Vessel characteristics
  3. Navigation
    1. Orientation to area of operation
      1. Identification of usual trip routes and navigational aids
      2. Identification of local weather patterns
      3. Identification of hazardous areas and conditions
      4. Identification of landmarks, markers, buoys as aids to navigation
      5. Completion of a United States Coast Guard approved course in Small Craft Operation and Safety
  4. Operation of Small Craft
    1. Operation of Small Craft
      1. Determines trip feasibility in absence of supervisor
      2. Determines if trip should be discontinued due to changing conditions once underway
      3. Performs proper loading of passengers and cargo.  Loads are assigned by supervisor
      4. Observes rules of the road
      5. Operates small craft at safe and efficient speed
      6. Maintains the cleanliness of the craft
      7. Reports mechanical and equipment defects to supervisor

Position Knowledge and/or Requirements

  • Knowledge of basic rules of the road.
  • Ability to steer a straight course, visually or with compass.
  • Ability to maneuver small boats to dock and undock or come alongside other vessels.
  • Knowledge of engine and control operation and ability to recognize improper equipment performance.
  • Skill in maintaining balance and agility while handling lines and boarding small boats of limited stability.
  • Knowledge of local waters sufficient to plan assigned trips.

Developmental Level

At the developmental level, the incumbent must possess all entry level competencies.  Incumbent may operate a small craft between 25 to 30 feet in length to transport passengers and cargo.  Operates in sheltered bays and rivers with little waterway traffic, adequate water depth and maneuvering room.  Incumbent receives general instructions from supervisor but otherwise operates independently.

  1. Safety
    1. Explains and enforces safety regulations among passengers
  2. Equipment Operation and Maintenance
    1. Performs routine maintenance on mechanical, electrical and hydraulic equipment.
    2. Recognizes improper operation of equipment in order to secure repairs
  3. Navigation
    1. Selects route and layout compass course
    2. Safely navigates vessel in situations of poor visibility using charts, soundings, navigational aids or landmarks
  4. Operation of Small Craft
    1. Determines trip feasibility
    2. Performs safe operation in all seasons and weather conditions
    3. Determines cargo loading and schedule trips accordingly

Position Knowledge and/or Requirements

  • Knowledge of local waterways, currents, shallows, eddies and prevailing winds
  • Ability to interpret charts, tides tables and current diagrams
  • Ability to compare soundings and charted depths, correcting for tide stage as a rough check of position
  • Skill in maneuvering single or twin screw vessels in narrow channels, docking facilities or currents

Full Performance Level

At the full performance level, the incumbent must possess all competencies at the entry and developmental level.  The incumbent may operate a small craft between 31 and 65 feet in length to transport passengers, cargo and equipment.  Vessel may be either single or twin screw of varying drive configurations.  Operates in exposed waters in all seasons and weather conditions.  Waterways may have narrow channels and heavy traffic.  Incumbent operates independently of supervisor under general instructions and may supervise one or more incumbents serving as deck hands.  The operator has considerable latitude to change standard operating procedures, schedules, trip routes and cargo manifests.

  1. Safety
    1. Performs loading/unloading and securing of heavy cargo using booms, cranes or other conveying equipment.
    2. Supervises deck hands in the safe handling of materials and use of conveying equipment.
    3. Performs safe loading and transport of gasoline, diesel fuel, propane and other volatiles.
  2. Equipment Operation and Maintenance
    1. Operates a variety of auxiliary equipment, main power, propulsion and generators.
    2. Performs routine and emergency repairs to all on board equipment as conditions require.
  3. Navigation
    1. Safety navigates vessels in limited visibility or at night using radar, GPS, loran, charts, and other navigational aids.
  4. Operation of Small Craft
    1. Plans sheltered routes and takes into consideration the effects of wind, currents, tides and visibility.
    2. Performs the safe transfer of passengers and cargo from vessel to vessel or vessel to shore in potentially hazardous sea conditions.

Position Knowledge and/or Requirements

  • Ability to determine exact position of vessel using radar bearings, interpret charts, relation to shoreline configuration and the use of other electronic navigation equipment.
  • Ability to interpolate for depth correction to charted depths in order to calculate when it is safe to cross shallow areas.
  • Knowledge of U.S. Inland Navigational Rules of the Road and The International Rules (72 COLREGS).
  • Ability to set and retrieve anchor and breaking out imbedded anchors using engine or wave action.


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