What is a boat licence?
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Mon Oct 19, 2020 at 3:25pm

What is a Boat Licence?

If you want to keep and use any type of  boat (even a Kayak or a canoe) on the Inland Waterways of the UK, including the canals and rivers, you will need to licence it. 

It's not just narrowboats and barges that need a licence on the canals and rivers. All portable, unpowered craft such as canoes, kayaks, dinghies, rowing boats, paddleboards and even light inflatable craft do too. This because the UK's 2,000 miles of canals and rivers need a lot of care and maintenance to keep them in good order for everyone to use and enjoy - no matter the size of craft. As well as maintaining things like canal walls or water flow, your licence fee goes towards making sure there are enough easy access points, ramps and slipways for example.

You won't need to pass a test to drive a boat!

There is no need to pass a competency exam before you're allowed to drive a boat, as one would if learning to drive a car. Although it is advisable to have a few lessons on the basics of using a canal boat if you are new to boating.

What you need to licence your boat

Where do you want to keep your boat

Different canals and rivers are managed by different navigation authorities. Each navigation authority has different licences and fees, depending on where you want to use your boat, you will need to contact the appropriate authority,: 

How much will my CRT boat licence cost

licences are calculated by boat  length (remember to include fenders and any thing else that adds to its length) and width, and the length of time you want the licence. 

The CRT have two types of licences which are business and private. If you use your boat for any kind of business such as a floating restaurant, or shop or renting it out for people to live on or hire boats, you'll need a business licence. If the boat is used purely for your own private use there are three varieties of private boat licence:

  • Long term – if your boat is always on the CRT waterways
  • Short term – if your boat is small, like a canoe, or you’re visiting from other waterways
  • Gold - this combines the Canal & River Trust and EA licences into one licence

A CRT licence costs the same whether you have a home mooring where you keep your boat, or whether you are continuously cruising.

How to CRT licence my boat

You can create an account and licence or renew your licence online quickly and easily by visiting the Canal and River Trust website.

Bought or Sold a Boat?

You'll need to tell the CRT if you've just bought or sold a boat. You'll need to take the new owner’s contact details, so that CRT can update their records. If you don’t have these the boat transfer to the new owner may be delayed and you'll remain responsible for the boat

If you've sold your boat, CRT 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 them. If you tell them online that ownership has been transferred then your licence will be terminated automatically in line with CRT Licence terms and conditions and any refund due will follow within 15 working days.

If you've just bought a boat, you'll need a buy a new licence, as even if the boat already had a licence, boat licences are not transferrable. The best thing to do is to contact the CRT to make sure that the previous owner has let them know about the sale. You can do this by registering on the CRT website and update their records to show you are the new keeper of the boat, and update your own contact details. You can them buy a new licence on their website.