Boat Licence

If you have a boat and it spends item on a waterways then you will need to buy a boat licence for the area that is used. For example if you are on the Thames, you will need a Environment Agency licence, or if you are on CRT (Canal and River Trust) then you need one of those too.

The definition of ‘waterway’ includes the great majority of long-term mooring sites and marinas, so your boat needs a licence whether or not you actually take it out for a cruise.

If your boat is very small (such as a canoe or rowing boat) and you only put it into the waterway for occasional trips, a short-term visitor licence or even a day licence will be enough.

If however you intend to use your boat commercially, you need a business licence. This includes all trading.

All licences allow you to use your boat on the waters you have a licence for, this includes mooring for short periods while cruising. The longest you can stay in one place is 14 days or less, but there are areas with a shorter time limit as indicated by signs these are at some more popular sites.

When you pay for your licence you will find with some authorities will offer discounts for early payment. Worth while doing as it can save you a fair bit of money 

What you need to buy a licence.

You will need the boat to have complied with the stadards of Boat Construction. This sometimes called the RCD so you are responsible for making sure that your boat is maintained so that it complies with the required standards at all times.

You need will need a full insurance policy in force, because as boat licence holder, you are responsible for any injury or damage caused by you or the boat.

Your boat needs the boat-equivalent of a MOT known as a Boat Safety Certificate (BSC). These are issued by the Boat Safety Scheme, who can put you in touch with your local examiner. This is renewed every four years.

To obtain your licence you will have to approach the waterway authority that you wish to cruise. In the main this will be he CRT as they control most of the inland waterways. Most of the authorities now allow internet applications and renewals.

Here is a list of most of those authorities. 

  • Associated British Ports – ABP Humber
  • Avon Navigation Trust (Stratford-on-Avon to Tewkesbury)
  • Basingstoke Canal Authority
  • Bridgewater Canal – Manchester Ship Canal Company in conjunction with the Bridgewater Canal Trust 
  • Bristol Harbour Authority
  • The Canal & River Trust, formerly British Waterways – supported by grant-in-aid from Government
  • Broads Authority – a national park authority
  • Cambridgeshire Lodes
  • Cardiff Harbour Authority
  • Chesterfield Canal Partnership
  • City of York Council
  • Company of Proprietors of the Chelmer & Blackwater navigation
  • Company of Proprietors of the Neath Canal Navigation
  • Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation
  • Conservators of the River Cam
  • Dart Harbour and Navigation Authority – a Trust Port, Dartmouth
  • Devon County Council
  • Driffield Navigation Trust
  • Droitwich Canals Trust
  • Environment Agency – supported by grant-in-aid from Government
  • Essex Waterways Ltd, a subsidiary of the Inland Waterways Association
  • Exe Estuary Navigation Authority based at Exeter
  • Exeter City Council
  • Gloucester Harbour Trustees – a Trust Port
  • Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Trust
  • Hull City Council
  • Inland Waterways Association subsidiary Essex Waterways Ltd
  • Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation – River Gipping Trust
  • River Ivel – Environment Agency and riparian landowners
  • Lake District National Park Authority
  • Lancaster Canal's Northern Reaches – various ownerships
  • Lapal Canal – various ownerships
  • Little Ouse Navigation – Environment Agency / riparian landowners
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority
  • Manchester Ship Canal Company – the majority of shares are owned by Peel Ports, a subsidiary of The Peel Group.
  • Medway Ports
  • Middle Level Commissioners
  • Neath Canal Navigation, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
  • Port of Hull and the River Hull, Associated British Ports
  • Port of London Authority
  • River Dee, Wales – Environment Agency has harbour authority responsibilities downstream
  • River Glen, Lincolnshire, Environment Agency
  • River Great Ouse, Environment Agency
  • River Hamble Harbour Office
  • River Idle, Environment Agency
  • River Medway – Non-tidal: Environment Agency; Tidal: Medway Ports
  • River Severn, Avon and Wiltshire: Bristol Haven Conservancy
  • River Severn, Gloucestershire/Herefordshire: Gloucester Harbour Trustees
  • River Tyne – Tidal: Port of Tyne Authority; non-tidal: various
  • Scottish waterways – managed by the Scottish Executive and British Waterways Scotland (BWS)
  • Sedgemoor District Council – as Harbour Authority for the Port of Bridgwater and the River Parrett
  • Sleaford Navigation
  • Ulster Canal – various, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • Waterways Ireland
  • The Waterways Trust
  • The Wey & Arun Canal Trust, Wey & Arun Junction Canal
  • Wey and Godalming Navigations, National Trust
  • Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
  • River Witham – Witham Fourth District Drainage Board

Most of the above have a transit agreements with CRT so you can pass through without extra payment. However other like EA and Avon Navigation Trust do require an extra boat licence.