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.

Incentives for paying promptly

If you renew your boat licence before it expires, you can take advantage of a 10% discount on the standard fee. To qualify we must receive your payment and correctly completed application before the start date of the licence. 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. A Late Payment charge of £150 also becomes due if the boat stays unlicensed on Trust waters for more than a month – this is a fair reflection of the extra costs we incur in collecting overdue fees.

What do you need to buy a licence?

Waterway users’ safety is very important to us, this is why your boat will have to comply with our Standards for Boat Construction – there are a few exemptions but this only applies to a small minority of boats. Read on for more information.


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

Boat Safety Certificate

Your boat needs the boat-equivalent of a MOT known as a Boat Safety Certificate (BSC). These are issued by the Boat Safety Scheme, who can put you in touch with your local examiner.

There is a legal requirement for boats to comply with the Canal & River Trust's Standards for Boat Construction. You are responsible for making sure that your boat is maintained so that it complies with the required standards at all times.

If your boat does not carry any gas or fuel, has no electrical circuits and no domestic cooking, heating, refrigeration or lighting appliances, it might be exempt from the requirement to produce evidence of compliance. Use this chart to determine whether your boat is exempt from this evidence requirement.

If your boat is exempt you will need to tick the appropriate box on your licence application form.

Home mooring

The boat must have a home mooring (as defined in the Licence Terms and Conditions) - somewhere you can lawfully leave your boat when it is not being used for cruising. The only exception is for boaters who declare themselves as 'continuous cruisers' - more information can be found in the Terms & Conditions.

Last date edited: 29 October 2018