Maintenance workboat

COVID 19 Due to the current situation with Covid 19 the Canal & River Trust will be prioritising work that has been identified as urgent and safety critical. Therefore, we’re afraid we are unable to meet our usual 6 week response time to submit Business Boating applications, this includes both Operating Proposals & Works Proposals.

As part of the Operating Proposal process, we conduct an internal consultation and some applications require a site inspection which has meant that we have been unable to review a number of new submissions whilst some staff are on furlough.

We currently have a backlog of applications that have been placed on hold since March, we have commenced progressing these in phased approach. Once these have been cleared, we will log new applications.   You are able to submit a new operating proposal, but please note that we are not operating within our usual response timescales.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and assistance.


These are for workboats that are used exclusively for qualifying waterway maintenance work.


These are for workboats with no overnight accommodation that are used exclusively for ‘qualifying waterway maintenance work’. This is defined as follows:

Work on waterway infrastructure, structures or development sites adjacent to the waterway under contract to the Canal & River Trust, another statutory undertaker or a private contractor, providing that the work is undertaken from or involves direct access from the craft operating on the waterway.

The boat will require a home mooring unless it is removed from the waterway when not in use. We understand that some works will take longer than 14 days, but there is no provision for leaving these craft on the waterway between jobs. 

This licence does cover the removal of 'Section 8' boats from the waterway, but not private towing contracts or cargo carrying; these activities require a Roving Trading Licence. The Policy for Workboats and Cargo Carrying gives further details.

Key considerations

The boat will need to be removed from the waterway when not in use or have a permanent mooring where it can be kept. 

This licence does not apply to any boat with living accommodation on board.


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


You will need third party and public liability cover to a value of £2m for damage or injury caused by you, your boats or your staff.

Boat Safety Scheme Certificate

You will need a Boat Safety Scheme certificate. If you wish to licence an unpowered butty, hopper, dumb barge or workflat please provide a Boat Safety Scheme Exemption Declaration instead.

Boatmaster’s licence

All skippers on the licensed craft must hold a valid Boatmaster’s Licence (BML) or equivalent.

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.

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.

Boat licence

Workboats require a Business Licence. All our price list can be found on our Fees and Terms & Conditions pages here.  A copy can also be found on the useful downloads at the bottom of this page.

Operating proposal

If you are a new or existing customer and wish to set up a new business boat, you need to submit an Operating Proposal via our online system (please log in to our Business Licensing system at the top right of the page).

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

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. 

When the Business Boating Manager has confirmed that your proposal is acceptable you will then be able to proceed to completing the Business Licence application within our online system. 

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

Useful downloads

Last date edited: 21 August 2020