Trade plates

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 provided to bona fide boat builders, brokers, engineers and mechanics to enable them to keep and move boats temporarily in their care on the waterway.


If you are building, restoring or repairing a boat for your own private use, you must get a full private boat licence. The same applies if you are offering your own boat for sale. You must not fit out boats on our towpath. 

Key considerations

You must have appropriate premises from which to operate your trade. We do not permit people to set up as brokers and boat builders on our towpaths. We will ask for evidence such as business letter headed paper, bank statements or a live website to prove that you are operating a boating business. Boats on Trade Plates may not be moored on towpath locations at any time except when being collected from or delivered back to a customer and a break in the journey is unavoidable. 

Boats awaiting collection by customers must be kept on proper moorings in your control and not on the towpath. Please bear in mind that all premises used for commercial activities will need planning consent for that use.



You will need a commercial insurance policy that provides cover to a value of £2m for damage or injury caused by you, your boats or your staff.

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

Trade plate log

You are required to maintain a log of every use that you make of your trade plate. In order to assist you in keeping a log of the use of your trade plate, we have produced a template that you can download and print off. Do please keep it up to date, as we can only renew trade plates when accompanied by their log for the previous year. You will be required to submit this log when you apply to renew the plate.

Boat 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 hire boat, 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

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.

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.

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.

Useful rownloads

Last date edited: 21 August 2020