Canal Boats
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Canal Boat Licences

canal boats Canal boats, like any other boat need a licence before they can legally be used on the waterways of UK and Europe, and the regulating authority for this is the British Waterways. With over 2000 miles of canals and rivers to maintain the licensing revenue goes towards their upkeep and maintenance and generally provides around 20% of the annual budget, with the remainder coming from the central and local government, since we all enjoy the facilities, even if we don't own a boat. The annual spend each year is around £100 million pounds.

The power to raise revenue in this way was originally granted in 1948, when the canal network was nationalised. Whilst we all hate paying ever higher costs for our hobbies and leisure activities, the licence fee forms an integral part of the conservation and preservation of this wonderful 200 year old heritage which is such a part of our culture and inheritance. So whilst we might not like paying it, try to view it as your contribution to the next generation! If you fail to pay or your license is not clearly displayed on both sides of the boat, then under section 8 of the British Waterways Act, your boat can be removed from the water and destroyed, and all contents sold to pay for any costs. British waterways are now using increasingly sophisticated technology, including hand held devices which will automatically check whether your boat is licensed - if not, don't expect to see it next time you visit, and if it is also you home this is no protection as a court order will also be sought before removing the vessel, so you  have been warned. Please also be aware that some waters are managed by other authorities such as the Environmental Agency and the Broads Authority - see below:

Canal Boats - Licence Types

There are a whole variety of types required, depending on whether the boat is to be used for commercial or leisure/residential use, and the main ones are listed below. It is your responsibility to make sure you have the correct licence which is up to date, and covers you for the appropriate water.

License Type Key Points Approx Costs
Standard Licence England & Wales Solely for personal use by the licence holder, friends and family. You are not allowed to use the boat for any commercial activity - 3 month, 6 month and 12 month terms are available. Costs vary according to the size of boat and term of the licence. A 21.50m - 22.49m boat for 12 months will currently cost £812.05 per annum with a discount of around 10% for early payment.
Gold Licence England & Wales The same terms as for the standard licence, but this also allows you to navigate on waters managed by the Environmental Agency, and on British Waterways waters in England, Wales and Scotland. This licence covers you for use on the Thames, Anglian waterways and the River Medway. Based on the same terms and size of boat above, the annual cost is currently £1068
BW Scotland licence This licence covers the Highland waterways and Lowland waterways but you will also require a British Waterways mooring permit The fee is a flat rate irrespective of the canal boats size and is currently £127 per annum. ( there is a small reduction to £90 for boats under 10m in length) Annual mooring permits vary depending on the location but typically are between £30 and £130 per annum.
Short term licences Thirty day explorer - provides 30 one day tickets which must be displayed - days do not need to be consecutive Approx £161 for a 30 day licence and a maximum size of canal boat
Other short term licences Licences are available anywhere from one day to one week and one month Prices vary according to terms and size of canal boat.
Business licence If you propose to use your canal boat for anything other than personal use, then you must buy a business licence. There are a variety of different licenses depending on the business activity such as freight, workboat, or charter etc. Typically these licences are only available on a12 month basis. A leisure boat licence for day trips etc will cost around £2100 per annum.


If you are in any doubt about the correct licence, please check with the British Waterways who are very helpful and their site has a great deal of useful information on the services they provide, and the fees they charge.

Now let's look at another important aspect of canal boat ownership, and that's insurance. This is essential, not only for your own benefit but for the protection of other canal and river users. Sight of a valid insurance certificate will also be required by the British Waterways when purchasing your licence and also when renting your residential moorings, so you must have a comprehensive insurance policy for your canal boats use on the water.

Canal Boats - Next Page

Marinablu International Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of  Pantaenius UK Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA)  - canal boat licences