How we tackle boat licence evasion

Find out more about our ongoing work to tackle boat licence evasion.

Red narrowboats moored in marina Boats in marina

What we do

Our boat licence customer support team is out and about on our canals and rivers, constantly working to tackle licence evasion. 

For seven years in a row the licence evasion rate has stayed below 5%. This is calculated following the national boat check, which logs all boats during the month of March. Any boat which cannot be identified or has an expired licence is recorded as an evader, even if the licence only expired in February.

The process

Our process starts with the local teams patrolling the banks with hand-held computers that show whether your boat has a valid licence - no matter what's displayed in the window. If you're not complying with the rules, your details are automatically recorded and some kind of follow-up will commence.

Initially our office-based team will try to give you a call to help you licence the boat. However, if they are unable to get the matter resolved they will pass the case onto a licence support officer.

We'll always try to work with you to get your boat licensed. But sometimes, we're left with no choice but to take further action.

Our main tool is the power for the Trust to “Section 8” unlicensed boats. This relates to power given in the British Waterways Act 1983 (and transferred to the Canal & River Trust) and allows us to remove boats from the waterway if they are there without our permission or persistently in breach of our licence terms and conditions – including not having a licence.

Once we've removed the boat we can either sell it or, if it is of little value, we may destroy it. We have first claim on any sale proceeds, which we use to recover our costs of taking action.

"“Many thanks for all you help, co-operation and assistance in the matter which has been traumatic to say the least over the last year."

Boating customer

Court order

If a boat is also someone’s home, before exercising these powers we take the added precaution of getting a court order to remove the boat from the waterway.

Online boat checker

Many boaters have got into the habit of contacting us on an ad hoc basis when they see boats that appear to be unlicensed. Please bear in mind that there can be many reasons why licences are not displayed, from simple forgetfulness to condensation causing them to fall off.

If you don’t see a boat licence in the window, it doesn’t always mean the boat is unlicensed.

If you want to find out for yourself then please do use the online boat checker and if you have spotted an unlicensed boat, we’ll automatically be notified.

You can order a free pair of plastic holders to display your own boat licence in your windows from our shop.

Please note, we do not issue licences to our own workboats. A separate fleet management system makes sure all our boats comply with safety needs. 

Last date edited: 4 December 2018