Choosing and buying your licence

If you have a boat that will spend time on one of our waterways then you will need to buy it a licence.

The definition of ‘waterway’ includes the great majority of long-term mooring sites and marinas, so your boat needs a licence whether or not you actually take it out for a cruise.

If your boat is very small (such as a canoe or rowing boat) and you only put it into the waterway for occasional trips, a short-term visitor licence will be enough.

If you intend to use the boat commercially, you need a business licence.

All licences allow you to use your boat on waters managed by us, including mooring for short periods while cruising. This means you can stay up to 14 days or less, but keep an eye out for signs because you’ll need to move on sooner at some more popular sites.

Discount for paying promptly

You can get a discount on the standard fee if you renew your boat licence before it expires. To qualify we must receive your payment and correctly completed application before the start date of the licence. The discount is 10% until the end of March 2019. We’ve recently announced changes to this discount, following consultation with boaters. Please see the national consultations page for more details.

The normal, undiscounted licence fee applies in all other cases.

Late payment fee

A late payment charge of £150 becomes due if your boat stays unlicensed on our waters for more than a month – this reflects the extra costs we incur in collecting overdue fees.

What do you need to buy a licence?

Everyone's safety, on and off the water, is very important to us, this is why your boat must comply with our Standards for Boat Construction (there are a few exemptions). Before you apply for a licence, make sure you have:

  • Insurance
  • A boat safety certificate
  • A home mooring


As a boat licence holder, you're responsible for any injury or damage caused by you or your boat. Find out more about boat insurance.

Boat safety certificate

By law, your boat must comply with our Standards for Boat Construction.

Basically the boat-equivalent of a MOT, this certificate is issued by the Boat Safety Scheme, who can put you in touch with your local examiner.

You're responsible for making sure your boat is maintained and complies with the standards at all times.

Boat safety exemptions

You may be exempt from having to produce evidence of compliance if your boat:

  • does not carry any gas or fuel
  • has no electrical circuits
  • has no domestic cooking, heating, refrigeration or lighting appliances

Use this chart to check whether your boat is exempt.

If your boat is exempt you will need to tick the appropriate box on your licence application form or in our online licensing portal. We may undertake additional checks to confirm that your boat is exempt and safe.

Home mooring

Your boat must have a home mooring (as defined in our licence terms and conditions) - somewhere you can lawfully leave your boat when your not enjoying cruising the waterways.

Home mooring exemptions

The only exception is if you declare yourself as a 'continuous cruiser' - see our  terms and conditions for more on this.

Last date edited: 9 December 2018