Licensing FAQs

The licensing pages on our website are full of useful information about how to licence your boat with us. Information on these pages ranges from helping you decide which licence to choose to navigation rules and facilities for boaters.

Licences – general guidance: 

How much will my boat licence cost?

The price of your boat licence can be found in our Licence Fee Tables, published within the useful licensing downloads section. You’ll see that the price is calculated according to your boat length. There are also some other options for you to decide on, which are:

  • The duration of the licence – this can be either three months, six months or a year.  The three month licences are only available if you have a home mooring for your boat
  • The type of licence – you can choose between a canal and river licence, which covers use on all our navigations, or a river only licence, which is only available if you keep or use your boat on River navigation (you can find the full list of these on page 15 of our Licence Terms and Conditions)
  • Incentives to pay early – If you pay for your licence in full before the start date then you are entitled to a 10% discount on your licence fee. Please note we’ve recently announced changes to this discount, following consultation with boaters. Please see the national consultations page for more details.

Is my licence a different price if I have a home mooring instead of continuously cruising?

No, the price of your licence doesn’t change, it costs the same amount whether you have a home mooring or continuously cruise.

What is my customer number?

Your customer number is your unique reference – you’ll find it on the paperwork we send you, usually in the top right hand corner.  It’s a seven digit number, starting with the number 8.

What documents do I need before I can buy my licence?

To complete your renewal you need to have the following information to hand:

  • Your in date boat safety scheme certificate – you’ll be asked to provide the BSSER number on the certificate when renewing online.  When you are, you should make sure that you enter the details in the following format: BSSER-123456/15
    Your insurance cover note – you’ll be asked for the name of your insurer, start date, end date and policy number when you renew online so make sure that your insurance cover is up to date and in place before you start your licence renewal or application 

I have a River-only licence but want to go on the canal, what do I need to do?

It depends on how long you want to stay on the canal/s for. If you’re only planning a short trip, you can temporarily upgrade your licence by purchasing a short term licence for a day, week or month. As a River-only licence holder you’ll be entitled to a 50% discount on the standard price. You can buy short term licences online

If you’re planning a more permanent move you can upgrade to a standard canal & river licence. You can request this upgrade online. You can also downgrade your canal & river licence to cover only rivers in the same way.

What is a Gold Licence?

This licence covers navigations managed by both the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency. It can be a more economical way of licensing your boat depending on the time you intend to spend away from your home navigation on any of the waterways covered by this licence.

The licence runs annually from 1 January to 31 December, no matter what point through the year it is purchased. Gold Licences are non-refundable and only issued for full calendar year, commencing 1st January, but may be transferred to a new owner on sale, inheritance or any other change of ownership.

More information about the Gold Licence can be found on our useful downloads page.

What is a Houseboat Certificate?

Houseboat Certificates are generally associated with a particular Canal & River Trust long term mooring permit and carry with them a limited right of assignment of the mooring permit. A houseboat is defined as a boat whose predominant use is for a purpose other than navigation and which, if required for the purpose, has planning permission, for the site where it is moored. A Houseboat may be used for navigation from time to time provided it does not become its predominant use. Read more about houseboats and residential moorings.   

Which navigations can I use with a Canal & River Trust licence?

Here's a list of the navigations we're responsible for. Generally, you'll need a licence from us before you can use your boat on these navigations.  

Can I still buy a licence if I don’t have a home mooring?

Yes, you can, if:

  • Your boat is removed from the water when it is not cruising, or
  • You're going to use the boat to cruise continuously (travelling around the network without staying in one place for more than 14 days, or less where indicated)

Continuous cruising is not a suitable option if you have commitments (such as work, family or school) in one place as you must be engaged in a genuine, progressive journey around the network. Please read our Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers to make sure that this is the best decision for you. 

Does the boat licence include free keys for accessing facilities and locked bridges?

No, you need to order these separately from our online shop. The most common key is a Yale one that unlocks water points, toilets, Elsan etc. and moveable bridges. Some locks and bridges have anti-vandal ‘handcuff’ type keys – you may need to check with the local office before purchasing your key.

Will my boat fit on a certain canal?

You can download a PDF of our waterway dimensions. This information is currently under review, and is therefore for guidance purposes only. Use this to check that your boat is not too big for the waterways you want to cruise.

When measuring the boat to determine your licence fee, you should include fenders and any other items that add to its length.

I’ve bought a brand new boat, can you give me a number before I buy the licence?

Yes, if the boat is still being built and you’d like to sign-write your index number on it in advance of purchasing your first licence, you can apply for just an index number. The cost of this ‘Early Registration’ is £20, and it’s non-refundable. You can buy an index number online once you’ve registered (or signed in for existing customers).

I’ve lost my licence discs, what should I do?

Although we don’t need to see your discs to know whether a boat is licensed, it’s still a legal requirement to display them along with your boat name and index number. If you bought your licence online, you can log into your log into your account and print another set. If your index plates are temporarily obscured for any reason (eg. during winter) you can also use the facility to print temporary plates to display.

Where can I send postal documents?

If you need to send us anything by post, you can do so at:

Canal & River Trust
Boat Licensing Team
PO Box 162

How can I report an unlicensed boat?

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 do bear in mind that some people just forget to stick their new licence up in their window (or condensation has caused it to fall off!) so, if you don't see it in the window, it doesn't always mean it's unlicensed.

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

Please note, we do not issue licences to our own workboats. A separate fleet management system includes ensuring that all our boats comply with safety requirements.

Do I have to buy a separate boat licence for my tender?

Tenders are small boats that are easy to lift out of the water and used solely for the purpose of getting from the main boat to the river or canal bank whilst within sight of the main boat.

If your tender is less than 3m long and it is normally carried on your boat or towed behind it and only used as a means of access to and from your main boat then you don’t need a separate licence. Please make sure your tender is clearly marked with “Tender to YOURBOATNAME" and your boat's index number.

If you use your tender for any purpose other than access to and from your main boat, or if it’s longer than 3m or cannot easily be lifted out of the water and stored on the main boat, you will need to buy a boat licence for the tender as well. 


Licence renewal:

Why haven’t I received my licence renewal in the post yet?

If you have provided us with your email address in the past then you will have been sent your licence renewal electronically instead of by post. If you’ve already checked your inbox and still can’t find it then it’s worth making sure that our email hasn’t been sent straight to your junk mail folder. If you still can’t find it then give us a call and we can check what’s happened to it.  

I pay for my licence by Direct Debit, why hasn’t it renewed this year?

We no longer ‘auto renew’ licences paid for by direct debit. If your payment method is direct debit then you just need to log into your account and make sure that all your details are correct before your renewal purchase is completed.

I’ve renewed (or purchased) my boat licence online but I haven’t received my licence discs in the post, where are they?

We no longer post you your licence discs as a matter of course.  If you’ve renewed your licence using our online system we will have sent you an email confirming your purchase and the discs are attached to that email for you to print out. They’re black and white now so no coloured ink is necessary. If you don’t have access to a printer then we can print and post them out to you, just let us know. 

I usually receive a discount on my licence fee but it’s not listed on my renewal document, how do I know that it’s been applied?

Unfortunately, our renewal documents no longer display a breakdown of the discounts applied but were working on a way to have them detailed for you again. However, if you have always received a discount it should still be applicable this year. The easiest way to check that you have your discount is by comparing the price on your renewal with the standard fee for your boat length. If you buy your licence online, you’ll be able to see a breakdown of the price you’re paying.

What is the prompt payment discount and how do I qualify for it?

If you renew your boat licence before it expires, you can take advantage of a discounted licence fee. We call this 'prompt payment discount' and it's a 10% discount on the standard fee. To qualify we must receive your payment and correctly completed application (with supporting information such as insurance and Boat Safety details) before the start date of the licence. Unfortunately, this discount is only available if full payment is made in advance so it’s not applicable to licences paid over instalments. Please note we’ve recently announced changes to this discount, following consultation with boaters. Please see the national consultations page for more details.

Bought or sold a boat?

I’ve sold my boat, what information do you need from me?

If you have sold your boat you can tell us online – we’ll need to take the new owner’s contact details from you, so that we can update our records. If you don’t have these, please give us as much information as possible. We’ll send you an email confirmation to check we’ve got the right details.

I’ve sold my boat, how do I claim a refund on my licence?

We can issue refunds for any full, unused months of a 12 or 6 month canal and river licence. (3 month licences are non-refundable.) You no longer need to send back your old licence discs to us.  If you’ve sold your boat and are entitled to a refund then a written request (letter or email) is sufficient for us to process your refund.  To work out whether you are eligible for a refund or to calculate the value of your refund you can look in Schedule 4 on page 21 of the Licence Terms and Conditions.

I’ve just bought a boat and it has a licence but I’m not sure what to do when it runs out?

6 & 12 month Canal & River licences bought after 1st May 2015 are not transferrable, so you will need a buy a new licence. The best thing to do is contact us to check that the previous owner has let us know about the sale. You can do this by registering online to update our records to show that you are the new keeper of the boat and update your own contact details. You can also purchase a new licence online.

Boat Safety

I’ve recently had my boat examined by a Boat Safety Examiner, do I need to tell you?

Yes please – if you tell us as soon as your boat is issued with a new certificate, we can update our records ready for your next renewal. You can also update this yourself on our online system, which links directly to the BSS database. Be sure to tell us the complete certificate number (e.g. BSSER-123456/15), and we’ll be able to find the full details.

My licence is due for renewal but my current Boat Safety Certificate has expired. What should I do?

We have an obligation to ensure the safety of all boaters using our waters. For that reason we cannot re-licence a boat that does not have a valid Boat Safety Certificate – we must be sure that the boat is safe first. The Boat Safety Scheme can help you find an examiner in our local area.

Remember, you can renew your Boat Safety Certificate up to two months before expiry without losing the current end date. It’s best to get the new examination done as early as possible, so that any remedial works can be complete before you need to buy a new licence – otherwise, you may lose out on the Prompt Payment discount or incur the Late Payment charge.

Changes in circumstances

I’ve changed my address/phone number/email, what do I do?

The easiest way to update your contact details is online.

I’ve taken my boat out of the water, can I suspend my licence?

Licences can’t be suspended, but if your boat is out of the water (for example, if it’s on hardstanding for repair work), we can issue a refund for any full, unused months of a 12 or 6 month licence. (3 month licences are non-refundable.) You can then buy a new licence once your boat goes back into the water.

To work out whether you are eligible for a refund or to calculate the value of your refund you can look at page 22 of our general terms and conditions for boat licences.

You can request a refund online, or if you’d prefer to post your request to us, you should return both your licence discs, along with a completed transfer of ownership/off water declaration form and post them to our boat licensing team.

Within 15 working days, we’ll calculate your refund, less a £30 admin charge, and issue a cheque payable to the name(s) on your licensing account. If you were paying by Direct Debit, and the amount you’ve paid so far doesn’t cover what you owe, we’ll write to you explaining any outstanding balance.

If we've still not answered your question, or you have but you would like some more information, you can get in touch with us by using our contact form or by telephone to 0303 040 4040. 

Last date edited: 8 March 2018