We look after many of the nation’s canals and rivers as well as rivers such as the Severn, the Trent and the Yorkshire Ouse. To keep or use a boat on them you need a licence. These pages aim to give you all the information needed to fulfil licensing formalities with minimum fuss.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, copyright Andy Tidy
Huddersfield Narrow Canal, copyright Andy Tidy


Why your boat needs a licence

Our precious 200 year old, 2,000 mile network of canals and rivers needs a lot of TLC to keep it in a condition for boaters and the public to continue using and enjoying. It currently costs more than £140 million each year. Roughly half of this comes from the Government. We rely on boaters for around £23 million each year, which we raise through licence and mooring fees.

We’re steadily extending the availability of licence purchase by internet. Existing customers can renew a long term licence online, and short term visitor licences online are also available in this way. Visit our useful downloads page for lots of supporting information as well as copies of all the relevant application forms and fees.

Just like a car, a boat needs to be insured before it cruises the waterways. It also needs the boat-equivalent of a MOT known as a BSS (Boat Safety Scheme).

Customers looking to buy or renew a licence should send a copy of their BSS certificate to:

Canal & River Trust
Boat Licensing Team
PO Box 162

Changes to boat licence Terms & Conditions, May 2015

From 1 May 2015, some changes to the terms and conditions of Canal & River Trust boat licences are coming into effect.  The changes provide greater clarity so that all boaters know what is expected, and can be clear about what they are signing up to.

The changes to the terms and conditions are supported by the IWA, RBOA and AWCC as well as the Trust’s Navigation Advisory Group which comprises boaters with a variety of backgrounds to bring as broad a range of perspectives as possible to decision making. The revised terms and conditions take into account feedback received from boaters following publication of the draft changes. 

None of the changes reflect a significant change of policy by the Trust, but we understand that many of you may wish to understand the reason for any of the changes in detail. So, if you’d like to see every change we’re making, they can be found in this table. The table shows how each condition or clause will look from 1 May, compared to the old version. It also includes a plain English description of the change and, importantly, why we’re making it. 

We’ve also published an explanation of the changes we made following feedback from boaters and organisations.

If you'd prefer you can just read the updated licence terms and conditions.


Frequently asked questions

If you haven't found what you're looking for here please take a look at our licensing faqs page where you'll find information on everything from prompt payment discounts to buying a boat and renewing its licence.

The Environment Agency runs the River Thames, the River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia.

The Broads Authority runs the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

To find other places to buy your boat licence, such as marinas and boatyards, download our handy list of vendors.

Keep our canals and rivers flowing

As a charity we need your help to protect and enhance our cherished canals and rivers. Find out how you can get involved, donate to us or volunteer.