The charity making life better by water


Our canals were originally built to transport goods around the country. Although freight is no longer the main purpose of our waterway network, there continues to be a role for freight by water.

Tug pulling barge with large freight on River Trent

There has been growing interest in the potential for freight traffic as fuel costs have risen and awareness of the environmental benefits of freight by water has increased.

Wherever we can do so cost effectively, we endeavour to facilitate freight on our larger waterways. In recent years we've focused on the aggregates, container, waste and recycling sectors in particular.

There is also a niche role for carriage of specialist items on the narrow canals (for instance solid fuel supplies for boaters) and some operators have been able to take advantage of this.

Further information

You can find out what you need to start a trading freight business on our waterways by visiting our boating business pages.

You can also review our documents:

Laid-up freight vessels should have an up-to-date survey and be adequately insured to cover their laid-up status.


For enquiries about freight on the broad waterways, please fill in this form and email it to [email protected].

To effectively carry freight, waterways often need additional investment from partners. This frequently comes in the form of European and government grant funding.

If you have a freight proposal in mind, our enterprise team may know of grants from third parties you could apply for.

Useful links

We are members of the Freight Transport Association, who help to promote waterborne freight.

We work with the Commercial Boat Operators Association, whose members often use our network.

Last Edited: 15 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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