We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

These are boats that are let out on hire to members of the public without a skipper or crew.

Holiday hire boats (SDHH) have sleeping accommodation and are let out for 12 hours or more. They include timeshare boats and shared ownership arrangements where one or more of the owners has a business interest in the boat. It also includes boats owned by a social club where members of that club are able to use the boat unsupervised and any privately owned boat this is offered out for hire to others even if only rarely or for short periods.

Day boats (SDDH) have no sleeping accommodation and are hired out for a periods of up to 12 hours. These may be powered or unpowered e.g. cabin cruisers, electric boats, rowing boats, canoes, paddle-boats etc.

Key considerations

Your boat must be in excellent condition and repair if you intend to offer it for hire. We may ask for photographs or we may come out to inspect it.

You will need a permanent mooring with facilities such as fuel, water, sewage disposal, commercial waste disposal, secure customer parking and a safe place to board the vessel. We may allow you to operate one boat using Canal & River Trust facilities, but we will expect you to have access to third party or your own directly managed services if you want to operate two boats or more. Very small boats may be kept out of the water, but you will still need a safe place for customers to board. We may allow you to use a Visitor Mooring for this, for which there will be an additional charge.

We will assess your proposal for impact on local navigational safety, water resource and other operational matters.

Regulations

Insurance

You will need a commercial insurance policy that provides cover to a value of £2m.  A copy of the regulations that apply to each sector can be found here.

Boat Safety Scheme Certificate

You will need a Non-private Boat Safety Scheme certificate. Please note that not all boat safety examiners are qualified to carry out the Non-private inspection so check this before placing a firm booking. If the boat does not have any gas or electrical appliances or an inboard motor it may be exempt from the scheme. If your boat is exempt you must 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’).  Please note that we will require a Non-private boat safety scheme certificate for all hire boats from 1 April 2018, regardless of age.

Boat Safety Scheme Hirer Safety Consultation

Public consultation on proposed changes to the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) requirements for hire boats has ended. The comments have been reviewed and the implementation date is April 2017. Find out further information

Handover Procedure

You must prepare a detailed Handover Procedure which you must use each time you hire out the boat. It needs to cover the rules of navigation, how to use waterway structures such as locks and bridges, how to operate the boat safely and how to operate any equipment on the boat. It must contain a 24 hour Emergency Call Out service. British Marine produces a Hire Boat Handover Scheme which is incorporated into the
Quality Accredited Boatyard scheme, please contact them for full details. 

British Marine have worked with VisitEngland to develop the Boat Grading Scheme which was previously operated by Quality in Tourism.  They have developed a two tier scheme which includes the Hire Boat Handover scheme and a VisitEngland star rating scheme for holiday hire boats. 

  1. The first part of the scheme looks at the systems and procedures that an operator carries out in running a hire boat or fleet of boats. It encompasses the requirements of the Hire Boat Handover Audit.  In order to participate in VisitEngland’s star rating scheme, all boatyards/boat operators must hold a current QAB certificate.  QAB will not carry a star rating, but will be an accreditation, endorsed by VisitEngland and British Marine, that offers reassurances of safe and legal practices together with good customer services.  The QAB assessments are to be carried out every three years.
  2.  The optional second part of the assessment process will be the assessment of individual boats.  This will be a star rating, one to five.  A boatyard/operator will only be able to have boats star rated if a valid QAB rating is held.  However, a boatyard/operator with a QAB rating may choose not to have boats star rated, or just some of the fleet. Boats will need to be graded annually to remain within the scheme. 

British Marine operates the QAB and Boat Grading Schemes under licence from VisitEngland.  British Marine are able to offer assessments for both QAB and the Boat Grading schemes.

If you choose to pay British Marine to audit your handover procedure, you can supply us with a copy of the certificate as evidence that you have this in place. If you choose not to have your handover audited, you must supply us with a full copy of your handover document.

Boaters Handbook

The Canal & River Trust and Drifters, the UK’s biggest consortium of hire boat companies, have teamed up to make a new DVD covering boating basics. A companion to the existing popular boaters handbook, it contains lots of 'getting started' tips for hire boaters and new boat owners, as well as important information about how to boat safely.

The DVD can be viewed on our Navigating the Waterways page.

Boat Licence

The current price list for both holiday hire craft and day hire craft can be found on the Fees, Terms and Conditions page here.  When the Business Boating Manager has confirmed that your Operating Proposal is acceptable, he/she will forward you a licence application form with the details completed for you to review and return.

Gold Licences for Business Boats

Gold licences are available for self-drive holiday hire boats, skippered hotel boats and roving traders. Please note that we cannot give you our consent to trade on any moorings on EA waters as we are not the land owner. You will need to obtain consent from the relevant landowners as you travel.  Business Golds are priced at 130% of the cost of the normal Canal & River Trust business licence that applies to your vessel. Please speak to your Business Boating Manager if you would like more information. As with normal Golds, they only run 1 January to 31 December of each year and they are non-refundable.

Other regulations

Other regulations may apply to your business. For example, boats let out for hire must have a Gas Safe Certificate. 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.

Operating Proposal

Please submit an Operating Proposal if you wish to set up a new hire boat.  There are separate Operating Proposals for Self Drive Holiday Hire (SDHH) and Self Drive Day Hire (SDDH)

Upon receipt of your proposal, we will write and confirm receipt and aim to give you an in principle decision within 6 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: 26 July 2016