Coronavirus and boating FAQs

Many of your questions regarding coronavirus and boating are answered on this page, which we are regularly updating.

Can I go out on my boat for a cruise?

Yes, our navigations in England and Wales are open for you to cruise as normal, subject to some local exceptions.

Read our latest guidance on local lockdowns across the country. 

Please remember that all Government guidelines should be followed – this includes; social distancing and regular handwashing, especially before and after using any facility or structure.

We will keep the situation under active review and update you in line with changing circumstances and Government guidance.  Please refer to the Government guidance for England and Wales for more information.

Below are answers to some of your other most frequently asked questions. Jump straight to the section you'd like to read:

General advice for boaters  Boater facilities and services
Boat licences and Boat Safety Scheme Other activities
Support for boaters needing extra help Contacting the Trust

Updated 21 July 2020

General advice for boaters

What does this mean for continuous cruisers?

Mooring exemptions came to an end on 23 May and our guidance for continuous cruisers applies. If you are in a high-risk group, and need to continue to shield or self-isolate, then please get in touch via your licence support officer if you haven’t already told us.

How do I reduce the risk of transmission through touching facilities or locks that have been used by others?

In line with the government advice to all, it is advisable to wash your hands or use hand gels frequently to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus. It is advisable to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces.

Are volunteer lock keepers still operating?

Volunteer lock keepers are returning across the network – although there are likely to be fewer than normal right now.


Support for boaters needing extra help

What should I do if I am self-isolating and need help but don’t have any support networks?

Please get in touch via our online webform or contact your local boat licence support team. We will work with partners to support boaters self-isolating as best we can without adding to the risk of transmission.

Are Waterways Chaplains still helping boaters in need?

The work and ministry of Waterways Chaplains at this time is especially important, especially for those who are isolated and financially challenged by the crisis. Please visit the Waterways Chaplaincy website for the latest information.


Boat licences and Boat Safety Scheme

My Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate is due. What does the government advice mean for renewal?

The suspension on BSS examinations has been lifted and new guidance for boat owners on preparing boats for examination in the time of COVID-19 has been published here, BSS Examination Preparation Linked to Covid-19 protocols.

As there is now a considerable backlog of boats needing to renew their certificates, the temporary extension to safety certificates for those craft requiring an examination has been extended until 31 July 2020 to provide all boaters awaiting their examinations with sufficient time to arrange this.

For the latest information on the BSS examination process, please keep your eye on the Boat Safety Scheme website.

Is there going to be any reduction in licence fees?

We recognise that due to the national lockdown boats have not been able to move for some time so, in recognition of the severe restrictions on boating, we have extended leisure boat licences by one month at no cost to boaters.

Do I need to do anything now?

No, we’ll automatically extend all licences.

What if I’m facing extreme hardship or financial difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis and can’t pay my licence fees at all?

We will do what we can to support anyone in this situation during these highly unsettling times and we will try to be as flexible as we can regarding payment where there is genuine hardship. Please get in touch via our online webform or contact your local boat licence support team. If you are in this situation but currently pay by direct debit, please contact us rather than default on these payments as that could cause more problems.

What if I have an automatic renewal set up?

If you have an auto-renewal set up, it will be delayed by one month and you will receive a renewal with confirmation when this has been done. Your existing licence will be extended by one month.

Does this apply to boats with three and six-month licences also?

Yes, we will add a month to anyone who currently has one of these licences.

Is there any discount on Gold Licences?

No, the Environment Agency is not offering a discount. The Gold Licence is a joint agreement between the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust.

Do I need to change my licence disc as it will have expired?

Once we have updated your licence with the new dates you can download your new licence via the licensing website. If you are unable to do this then we can send you a copy in the post at your request.


Boater facilities and services

How can I get hold of pump-out cards and facilities keys?

Pump-out cards are available from our online shop – please order well in advance as they may take longer than usual to be delivered. Our offices remain closed for all but operational purposes until further notice. If you have difficulty using the online shop or receiving post, please get in touch and we will see how we can help. Facilities keys are only available from our offices and we are not able to provide them at the present time.

What is happening with your winter works programme this year?

The impact of coronavirus on our planned construction and repair works for spring 2020 will have a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the year and over next winter. The public consultation on our winter programme began on 1 June and you can find out more here.


Other activities

Can I hire a boat at the moment?

Yes, hire boat companies are operating with appropriate safety measures in place.    

Are Canal & River Trust museums and attractions open?

The National Waterways Museums Ellesmere Port and Gloucester Docks reopened on Tuesday 21 July, with a few changes to make sure visitors and the museum team are kept safe.  The majority of Trust-operated attractions, cafes and retail sites remain closed until further notice.

Can people fish on the towpaths at the moment?

Read our latest guidance on coronavirus and angling.

Can I still canoe or kayak?

Read our latest guidance on coronavirus and paddlesports.


Contacting the Trust

How should I get in contact with the Trust?

Please use our online contact form in the first instance. Due to reduced staff numbers our customer service phone number will be operating reduced opening hours of 8am–6pm Monday to Friday (Bank Holidays 9am–5pm). until further notice. If you have a general question and want to speak to someone, you can call our Customer Service Team on 0303 040 4040. Boaters can also contact their local boat licensing support team.

If you want to buy or renew a boat licence, please use our online web licensing portal where possible, while you can buy pump out cards from our online shop. Please only think about visiting one of our offices if you have no other options.

Last date edited: 31 July 2020