Applying for a licence
There are different ways to apply and pay for boat licences. Before you apply, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re signing up for and how you’re going to be paying.
- General Guidance
- Payment Methods
- Incentives for Paying Promptly
- Boat Index Number Section
- Applying for a Licence for the First Time
- Renewing an Existing Licence
- Application and Renewal Requirements
- Refund Terms for Standard Licences
For a beginner's guide to buying a boat, see the 'A boat of your own' section.
To apply for a licence for the first time - or for a new or different boat - download a copy of the appropriate application form, complete it and post it with the necessary payment and enclosures to the Boat Licensing Team.
We have a network of local licensing agents who can also assist you with your application and payment arrangements.
A maximum of two individuals' names will be accepted as registered keepers for any single boat. If two names are registered, both are fully responsible for compliance with the Licence Terms and Conditions. Only one address may be registered.
We accept payment by the following:
- Cheque crossed and payable to Canal & River Trust
- Most major credit cards (except AMEX) for which a charge of £7.50 will be made
- Debit card or Switch (no charge applies)
- Cash (only if you are applying in person )
- If the total fee due is more than £100, we also offer a Direct Debit facility for 12 month licences.
Paying by Direct Debit
You may make a single payment, or spread the cost over five or nine installments. For nine installments, the first payment will be 20% of the total due and the remainder is spread equally over the next 8 months. For five installments, the total due is divided equally. We may research your credit rating before allowing this option.
The licence is personal to you and, in making your application, you are committing to pay the total cost of the licence even if you choose to pay by Direct Debit installments.
Once you have set up a Direct Debit instruction, we will automatically collect payment in respect of the licence renewal providing that we hold valid boat safety certification for you, unless you tell us not to at least 15 working days before the licence expiry date. We will notify you in advance of the payment dates and amounts. We can collect direct debits on the 1st, 8th, 16th and 24th day of each month - you can tell us your preferred date on the application form. You are responsible for maintaining valid third party insurance cover for your boat and our automatic renewal of the licence is made on this understanding. See R1 Licence Requirements in the Licence Terms & Conditions.
You must notify us if you change any of your Bank or Building Society details after setting up a Direct Debit.
We need 15 working days notice if you do NOT want us to collect a payment that you previously authorised. You must also notify your Bank or Building Society.
We can collect payment from only one bank account per customer. If you have any other Direct Debit arrangements with the Canal & River Trust, please ensure that they all relate to the same bank account.
There is no installment option if you renew the licence via the internet.
Missed payments and cancellation of Direct Debit:
If we are unable to collect a payment because of insufficient funds in your account, a further attempt will be made to collect it after 10 working days. If it is not possible to collect the money on this second attempt we will automatically cancel your Direct Debit and all outstanding amounts become due immediately. Similarly, if you cancel your Direct Debit instruction, the outstanding portion of the full licence fee becomes due immediately.
If we do not receive the outstanding amounts due, your licence may be terminated. In this case you must remove your boat from our waters. If you fail to remove your boat from our waterways, we can do so at your expense and take action to recover any debt.
Owing to the cost of dealing with Direct Debit defaults, we reserve the right to charge a handling fee of £30. You may also incur legal costs if we have to instruct solicitors to recover the debt. If you default on your direct debit payments, we may refuse to grant you a Direct Debit facility in the future.
You can download a PDF of our waterway dimensions or contact the Customer Service Centre. This information is currently under review, and is therefore for guidance purposes only. Use this to check that your boat is not too big for the waterways you want to cruise.
When measuring the boat to determine your licence fee, you should include fenders and any other items that add to its length.
The licence fee varies with the length of boat and how promptly you renew the licence when it becomes due. The fees are published on our Useful Downloads page. Printed copies are available from Customer Services.
The fee tables for long term licences in England & Wales show two rates:
- the (lower) prompt payment rate applies as long as you pay in full in advance of the licence start or renewal date.
- the normal rate applies in all other cases except where you pay late (see below).
If you allow your licence to lapse for more than one month, you will also have to pay a fixed Late Payment Charge of £150. The licence must be back dated to the expiry of the previous licence, unless you provide evidence that your boat was not on the waterways for the intervening period. The late payment charge is a fair reflection of the additional cost incurred by the Canal & River Trust in collecting overdue licence fees.
The qualifying criteria for the prompt payment rate are as follows:
- The payment and correctly completed application (and any enclosures) must have been received by the boat licensing team or a licensing agent on or before the start date of the licence. In cases of doubt where we have no record of receiving an application, we will accept a formal proof of posting from Royal Mail or other professional dispatch service.
- Payment for the licence must be in advance. The discount does not apply for licences paid for in installments.
- If the boat is being introduced onto our waterways for the first time, providing that the licence is purchased before the boat enters our waterways.
- We will also allow the prompt payment rate for brand new boats providing the application is received no later than two weeks after the issue date of the safety certification.
- If the boat is returning to our waterways after being kept elsewhere, you may purchase the licence at the prompt payment rate providing you supply evidence that the boat was removed from our waterways upon expiry of any previous licence. The licence must be purchased before the boat is returned to our waterways.
- If the boat has been kept on our waterways without a licence during the twelve months preceding your application, the prompt payment rate will not be granted, regardless of who owned the boat. Furthermore, the late payment charge will apply if we have evidence that the boat has been on our waterway without a licence for more than one month.
- These rules apply regardless of whether or not we have sent you a reminder to renew your licence. It is your responsibility to ensure that your boat is correctly licensed at all times. We do not issue renewal reminders for licenses of less than 12 months as these are mostly purchased by people who keep their boats on the waterways for only part of the year.
If you are having a boat built and wish to sign-write your index number on it in advance of it needing a licence, you may apply for an index number only. The cost of this service is £20 including VAT and this cost is non-refundable.
Replacement index plates may be issued if you write to us explaining why you need them. The index number plates must remain on the boat at all times. They should not be removed when you sell the boat. The replacement fee is £20 for either metal or plastic plates.
If you lose the licence
You should apply for a replacement licence disc. The cost for this is £20 including VAT.
Change of details
The licence is specific to the boat and to you so it is important that you notify us if anything changes.
We can take change of home address information by telephone, but if you change the name of the boat, if your home mooring changes, or if you sell or give the boat to someone else you must let us know in writing. You should include details of any changed names, addresses or telephone numbers.
We will record any change to the name of the boat, so that the next licence issued carries the new name. We will not issue new licence discs before the current licence expires unless you specifically request this (a £20 charge applies for the replacement).
If you do not let us know the new owner's or broker's details, the boat will remain registered in your name and you will be responsible for its future licensing.
If, for any reason, you’re not able to apply online then application forms for all licence types are available from the following:
- Useful downloads page
- Canal & River Trust Customer Service Centre
- Local waterway offices and licensing agents
If you hold a 12 month licence, normally we will write to you shortly before the expiry date with a renewal application form. We can process your renewal more quickly if you use this, and not a new application form. We do not issue renewal reminders for licences of less than 12 months as these are mostly purchased by people who keep their boat on the waterways for only part of the year.
12 month licences for England & Wales can be renewed online at or by telephone (Customer Services on 0303 040 4040) providing you can pay by credit card and you have already sent us your current, valid Boat Safety Certificate.
Please allow 15 working days for the processing of a licence. Delays will occur and you may lose the prompt payment rate if you do not include:
- correctly completed application form or renewal form marked up with updated information as applicable (including current insurance policy details - note that we no longer require a copy of the certificate (see Terms & Conditions Licence Requirements R1).
- evidence of boat safety scheme compliance (see Terms & Conditions Licence Requirements R2).
- home mooring location (see Terms & Conditions Licence Requirements R3).
- the correct payment
- evidence as specified supporting any discount application
Pages 22 and 23 of the Licence Terms & Conditions detail the refunds terms for standard licences.