Exhibit boats

Exhibit boats are boats that are owned by or formally on loan to a recognised canal museum, society or visitor attraction.

Key considerations

Exhibit boats never navigate. There is no charge for looking over the boat but an overall admission charge to the visitors centre at which the craft is displayed is acceptable. The boat is never used for any kind of trading whatsoever. The boat must be moored on a mooring within the control of the visitor centre at which it is displayed.

There is a list of museums, canal socities and visitor centres that are eligible to apply for such licences. We will consider adding further organisations to this list on request.

The boat must either have a valid Boat Safety Scheme Certificate or a Declaration of Exemption from the Boat Safety requirements must be provided. Please note that if you are going to allow members of the public on board the vessel the Non-private Boat Safety Scheme Certificate will be required. 

If the boat is required to navigate, for example to attend events or festivals it must have the appropriate licence for its use. 



You will need to obtain Third party and Public Liability Insurance cover provided by a company that is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority which covers liabilities of at least two million pounds for each claim.

You must provide us with evidence that you are insured for your proposed activities on application.


A copy of the Regulations checklist for each sector can be downloaded here.

Boat Safety Scheme Certificate

You will need a Boat Safety Scheme certificate. If you want to have customers on board, you will need to make sure that the Part 10 inspection has been carried out. If you wish to licence an unpowered butty for trading purposes please provide a Boat Safety Scheme Exemption Declaration instead. We will accept a Declaration of Conformity with the Recreational Craft Directive in place of a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate if the boat is less than four years old (one year, in the case of ‘sail aways’). From 1 April 2018 you will need a Boat Safety Certificate regardless of the age of the boat.

Other regulations

Other regulations may apply to your business. Please read our General Guidance section and make your own independent enquiries to ensure that you understand and comply with all the regulations relevant to your proposed operation.

Boaters Handbook

The Canal & River Trust has launched a new edition of the Boater’s Handbook in partnership with the Environment Agency.  First published in 2002, the Handbook is written for boat owners and hirers and contains lots of 'getting started' tips as well as important information about how to boat safely. 

The updated Handbook contains some new information on which waterways are suited to wider craft and which ones only narrow boats should use, with a map that shows which canals are suitable for each.  There’s also pointers on the extra factors owners and hirers of wide beams need to be aware of when navigating and mooring.

Download your copy of the Handbook, or watch our video setting out key information, from the same page. You can also order a free hard copy from the online shop. Copies can be ordered, a maximum of two copies per boat. 

Boaters can also find a PDF the updated waterway dimensions on our planning your trip pages.

The Handbook was originally commissioned by British Waterways in partnership with the Environment Agency and the British Marine Federation. An expert group was commissioned to develop key messages and content, drawing on other published sources and relevant empirical evidence. Since then, there have been several re-prints which incorporated best practice updates.

Boat licence

Exhibit boats require a business licence. There is no charge for an exhibit licence. 

Operating proposal

If you are a new or  existing customer and wish to apply for an Exhibit licence, you need to submit an operating proposal via our online system.

Please ensure you provide as much information as possible in order for us to assess your proposal. 

If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device and would like to request a paper copy of the operating proposal please email business.boating@canalrivertrust.org.uk

Upon receipt of your submitted proposal, you will receive email confirmation and reference number. We will then aim to give you an in principle decision within six weeks. Please note that you may need to obtain planning permission and negotiate agreements for using our property which could take much longer to finalise.

Do not commit financially to your proposed business before receiving our ‘in principle’ approval.

Useful downloads

Last date edited: 17 May 2021