Licensing FAQs

Our licensing webpages should cover everything you need to know about licensing your boat with us. Here are some questions we get asked regularly by boaters, new and experienced, that can help point you in the right direction.

Licences, a general guidance: 

How much will my boat licence cost?

Visit the useful licensing downloads section to find everything you now need. From April 2020, licences will be calculated by length and width (also known as “beam”). The price depends on your boat length, (remember to include fenders and any thing else that adds to its length), boat width plus a combination of these other options:

  • The duration of the licencelong term at either three months, six months or 12-month. Three-month licences are only available if you have a home mooring for your boat and is non-refundable.
    Short term are available at one week, one month or a 30 day explorer licence
  • The type of licence – either a full canal and river licence, which covers all our navigations, or a river only licence, which is only for keeping or using your boat on some of our rivers (the full list of these is in our Licence terms and conditions)
  • Prompt payment discount – you can get a 2.5% discount if you pay prior to the start date of your licence either in full or by direct debit.
  • Online payment discount - you can get a 2.5% discount if you purchase your boat licence online.

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

No, it costs the same whether you have a home mooring or continuously cruise.

How can I pay for my licence?

You can pay using a debit card, credit card or by direct debit but please note that we do not accept American Express or PayPal.

If you are having difficulties paying for your licence and can’t use a debit or credit card or can’t set up a direct debit, for instance when you’re using Universal Credit or other benefits, please speak to your local Licence Support Officer.

Is my licence a different price if I want to rent it out or use it for business purposes? 

Yes, you'll need a business licence if you want to rent your boat out (for both short term or longer term rental) or if you want to carry out any type of business on board. There are different rules and prices depending on how you want to use you boat. Please see our boating business pages for more information.

What's my customer number?

Your customer number is your unique seven digit reference number (the one that starts with an 8) – you’ll find it on the top right hand corner of the paperwork we send you.  

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

Make sure you have your: 

  • Valid boat safety scheme certificate – you’ll need to provide the BSSER number on the certificate when renewing online. Make sure you enter the details in the following format: BSSER-123456/21. Please note that small unpowered, trailed, portable or ‘open boats’ such as canoes, paddleboards, rowing boats or dinghies do not need a Boat Safety Certificate
  • Insurance cover note – you’ll need the name of your insurer, start date, end date and policy number when you renew online so make sure your insurance cover is up to date and in place before you start  

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 our canals for. If you’re planning a short trip, you can temporarily upgrade your licence by buying a short term licence for a week or month. As a river-only licence holder you’re entitled to a 50% discount on the standard price. You can buy short term licences online

If you’re planning a more permanent move to a full canal and 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 both the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency waterways. A sort of two-for-one licence. It can be a more economical way of licensing your boat depending on how long you're away from your home navigation on any of the waterways covered by this licence.

Gold Licences are non-refundable and only issued for a full calendar year, running from 1 January to 31 December (no matter what point you buy it in the year), but you can transfer it to a new owner on sale, inheritance or any other change of ownership.

If you already have a River Only or Standard River & Canal Licence and want to upgrade to a Gold licence we will cancel and refund the unused portion of your existing licence separately to processing your new Gold Licence. We will let you know exactly how much extra you need to pay to upgrade.

What's a Houseboat Certificate?

Houseboat Certificates are only issued for boats where the Houseboat Certificate and the mooring agreement run at the same time and have the same expiry date. Houseboat means a boat not mainly used for navigation and which has planning permission for the site where it is moored, if needed. Houseboat Certificates are generally linked to a particular Waterside Moorings long term mooring permit and carry with them a limited right of assignment of the mooring permit.

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

Here's a list of our canal and river navigations. Remember, you'll need a licence from us before you use your boat on these waterways. You also need a boat licence even if your boat is unpowered including canoes, kayaks, dinghies, sailing boat, rowing boat and paddleboard.

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

Yes, 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 may not be suitable if you've commitments such as work, family or school in one place as you must be on a genuine journey around the network. Please read our Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers and our Continuous Cruising pages to make sure this is the best decision for you. 

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

No. But you can buy these from our online shop. The most common key is a Yale - it unlocks water points, toilets, Elsan etc. and moveable bridges. Some locks and bridges have anti-vandal ‘handcuff’ type keys.

Does the boat licence include a key to operate locks?

No, most locks on our waterways are manual locks and you'll need a windlass to operate them. You can buy a windlass from most chandleries. Boater operated electrically powered locks need our standard  Yale key, which you can buy from our online shop.

Does the boat licence include access to the Anderton Boat Lift, Ribble Link, Liverpool Link, Wigan Dry Dock, etc.?

Please check individual pages on our website for full access and booking details. Please note that there may be charges for services or passage including a booking fee. Booking is usually through our web licensing portal or by calling our customer services team on 0303 040 4040.

Will my boat fit on a certain canal?

You can download a PDF of our waterway dimensions, but this is for guidance only. Please consider carefully not only the beam and length of your boat, but its air draft and profile too. Remember, the waterway dimensions take into account that there is room for craft to pass, moor and the size of fixed structures. Please don’t take larger craft on waterways not suitable for them. You must not cause, or be likely to cause, damage to the waterway, structures, or any boat because of your boat’s dimensions or obstruct the Waterway or hinder navigation.

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

Yes, if your boat is still being built and you’d like to sign-write your index number on it in advance of buying 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 want to buy a short term/visitor licence, do I need a number for my boat before I purchase the licence?

No, if you are visiting from another navigation you do not need to get a boat registration number (boat index number) from us. Just make sure that you are clearly displaying your boat name and a copy of your short term licence on both sides of your boat.

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

Although we can tell from the boat index number whether a boat is licenced, 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 account and print another set. If your index plates are temporarily obscured for any reason (eg. under covers during winter) you can also print temporary plates to display.

How can I report an unlicensed boat?

There's no need to call or email us, our rangers are out checking. However, bear in mind 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.

We no longer use our online boat checker. Having reviewed its usage, of all the boats checked over the review period, 37% were unlicensed but already in our enforcement process. The other 63% were either licensed, in places where a licence wasn't required or the details were incorrect. We thank those that used the checker; please be assured that we will continue to maintain high levels of licence compliance on our waterways.

Please note, we don't issue licences to our own workboats. A separate fleet management system makes sure 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 are just for getting from the main boat to the river or canal bank while 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 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 reason other than gaining access to your main boat, and/or if it’s longer than 3m, and/or cannot easily be lifted out of the water and stored on the main boat, you'll need to buy a boat licence for the tender.

Licence renewal:

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

If you've given us your email address then you'll be 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 our email hasn’t been sent to your junk mail. If you still can’t find it, give us a call and we can look into it further.  

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

If you pay by direct debit then just log into your account and make sure all your details are correct before your renewal is completed, this will then renew automatically unless you've not been complying with boat licence terms and conditions e.g. not cruising enough.

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

We no longer post licence discs. If you’ve renewed your licence using our online system we'll 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. 

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

If you renew your boat licence before it expires, you can get a 2.5% prompt payment discount off your licence fee. To qualify for the discount you need to complete your application before the start date of the licence and also pay in full or by direct debit There is also a discount of 2.5% for renewing online.

I’ve changed mooring site or I don’t have a home mooring, do I need to tell you?

Yes you do, you must check that your mooring status is correct and update it if necessary before renewing your boat licence. Please see our Licence terms and conditions.

Bought or sold a boat?

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

You must let us know when you sell or transfer ownership of the boat or change the licence holder or keeper of the boat. You can tell us online. We’ll need to take the new owner’s full contact details (full name, postal address, telephone and/or e-mail) from you, so we can update our records. If you don’t have these, the boat transfer to the new owner will be delayed and you'll remain responsible for the boat. This could include future licence fees and any other costs and charges relating to the Boat. We’ll send you an email confirmation to check we’ve got the right details.

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

We issue refunds for any full, unused months of a 12-month or six month canal and river licence. Three month licences are non-refundable. You no longer need to send back your old licence discs to us. If you tell us online that ownership has been transferred then your licence will be terminated automatically in line with our Licence terms and conditions and any refund due will follow within 15 working days. To work out your refund, see our 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?

Standard six and 12-month Canal & River licences are not transferrable, so you'll need a buy a new licence. River Only can be transferred but 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 you are the new keeper of the boat and update your own contact details. You can also buy 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, tell us as soon as your boat is issued with a new certificate, so 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. Remember to tell us the complete certificate number (eg. BSSER-123456/21), 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 must make sure everyone using our waters are safe. So, we cannot re-licence a boat without a valid Boat Safety Certificate. We must be sure your 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 it expires without losing the current end date. It’s best to get the new examination done as early as possible, so any work on it can be complete before you need your new licence. Otherwise, you may lose out on the prompt payment discount or have to pay the late payment charge.

My licence is due for renewal but my Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) has expired. What should I do?

You will need to obtain a Boat Safety Certificate before renewing your boat licence

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 six month licence. Three month licences are non-refundable. You can then buy a new licence once your boat goes back into the water.

To work out how much refund you could get, see our general terms and conditions for boat licences.

You can request a refund online, by email or by post. Complete a 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. We will issue the refund direct to your bank if we hold your details, or issue a payable to the name(s) on your licensing account. To avoid delay it is best to contact us and provide your preferred bank details for a BACS transfer. 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.

We hope the above has helped but if you would still like some more information, use our contact form or call 0303 040 4040

Last date edited: 19 November 2021