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Getting a Boating Licence

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 2 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Licence Yacht Boat Qualifications

The rules of the water are not as restrictive as those of the road. Unlike in a car, there is no current rule whereby a boater must first pass the equivalent to a driving test to demonstrate their competency in a boat. In boating a greater emphasis is placed on the competency of the boat itself.

Who Needs a Licence?

Boating around the coast or further out to sea is open to all and does not require a licence. Passage down one of Britain’s many inland waterways however requires a boating licence or registration with the appropriate authority in charge of it.

Navigation Authorities

Almost all of British waterways are run by three different organisations – British Waterways, the Environment Agency and the Broads Authority. British Waterways is responsible for most of the United Kingdom’s rivers and canals and requires an appropriate licence before a boat is launched in these waters. To boat along the Thames and Medway rivers as well as those in East Anglia a registration form must be filled out for the Environment Agency. For boating on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads a toll must be paid to the Broads Authority.

Choosing a Licence

For boating on British Waterways water there are two main types of licence to choose from – a pleasure boat licence and a business licence.

A Private Pleasure Boat Licence allows a boat to be used for pleasure or personal residential use for standard periods of three, six and twelve months. It does not permit a boat to be used for hiring, carrying goods or passengers for payment or any other commercial function - these activities require a British Waterways Business Licence. This is not only appropriate for businesses but for social clubs, local authorities, charities and time share operators.

The Environment Agency requires boaters to register separately for each of its Thames, Medway, Royal Military Canal and Anglian river zones. Within these areas there are specific registrations for annual boaters and visitors.

Licensing Costs

The registration and licensing costs are assessed by the size and class of a launch and so can vary dramatically. The class refers to whether the vessel is used for a business or pleasure function or how sophisticated its onboard facilities are. The two main navigation authorities offer special rates and reductions for unpowered or electrically propelled craft, as well as historic and particularly small vessels.

Boaters who intend to travel up and down the nation’s rivers and canals through various navigation authority zones are saved the trouble of multiple registrations by purchasing the new Gold Licence, which allows passage on a combination of British Waterways and Environment Agency waters.

Qualification Requirements

Before being issued with a licence, motorised craft need to pass a stringent MOT-like test called the Boat Safety Scheme, which assesses whether the boat meets the necessary safety standards.

A licensed craft will also need to have at least third party insurance. This is the same as a car needs to drive on public roads, although it is less of a headache on the water as the costs are much lower and so most people opt for the ‘all risks’ cover.

Licences for Yacht Charters

Sailors planning on chartering a large yacht must adhere to qualification regulations that vary from country to country. Typically the yacht owner will specify that an independent bareboat charter requires a sailor with skipper’s licence or certificate as well as one qualified crew member. These qualifications can be acquired by following an appropriate sailing course.

The relative leniency in regulations with regards to competency means that everyone can give boating a try.

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Hi could anyone please help me out,. If I buy let's say a sunseeker Manhattan what is the maximum size that I could buy before I need any kind a licence? And what kind of licence would I require to sail this vessel?in any location around the world, also if I chartered out the vessel to paying clients would I need a qualified captain? Or could I sail it myself, surely I would need some kind of licence to do this? I would be very greatful if anyone could help me out with the above information, as I'm new to the yachting world, many thanks, oceanman.
Oceanman - 2-Jan-17 @ 8:28 PM
Dutchy - Your Question:
Hey Guys, I am an Australian resident planning to buy a 45' motor cruiser in the U.K. and take it across to Calais to enter the European waterways via the Netherlands or Belgium. My understanding is that I require an ICC licence as proof of competence in Europe (for a U.K. citizen) however can an ICC licence be issued to a non-UK resident residing Internationally? Or is there any need if the vessel is <15m and <10knots??? Thanks

Our Response:
Note that the ICC is not necessarily a recognised licence in other countries, but many other European countries will accept it...check before you go! You can apply as an Australian resident. Here' s link to the application form.
SailingAndBoating - 9-Nov-16 @ 11:43 AM
Hey Guys, I am an Australian resident planning to buy a 45' motor cruiser in the U.K. and take it across to Calais to enter the European waterways via the Netherlands or Belgium. My understanding is that I require an ICC licence as proof of competence in Europe (for a U.K. citizen) however can an ICC licence be issued to a non-UK resident residing Internationally? Or is there any need if the vessel is <15m and <10knots??? Thanks
Dutchy - 8-Nov-16 @ 12:55 PM
Hey I am googling and coming up with confusion! Basically we are getting an intex excursion 4 inflatable dinghy/rowing boat and will be fitting it with a 12v motor to use on River Thames in Oxfordshire. I understand we need a licence and to get a licence it appears we need insurance etc but I cannot figure out what category this type of inflatable boat will come under in order to get a quote! The whole thing will cost about £200. I've rowed a lot but always hired or gone with other people so am new to the actual owning of one. I'm getting a 30 day licence for just rowing but need to understand how to get insurance on this boat when we stick the motor on it - or indeed if we need a licence as I also read somewhere we don't need it if it is this type of motor its exempt?? Please can someone point me in the right direction so that we can be legal on the river? Thanks!!
helcatamy - 27-Sep-16 @ 4:59 PM
Tony - Your Question:
I passed my test a quite a few years ago in Spain with an English company but never got my license but on record I had passed as I owned a 22ft mored at toraviega does your licence last like a driving licence? I think the company I used was sss serenity or ss serenity but I'm not to sure how can I find out??

Our Response:
Most boat licences last 5 years. Contact the UK ship register for more information.
SailingAndBoating - 19-Sep-16 @ 11:38 AM
I passed my test a quite a few years ago in Spain with an English company but never got my license but on record i had passed as i owned a 22ft mored at toraviega does your licence last like a driving licence? I think the company I used was sss serenity or ss serenity but I'm not to sure how can I find out??
Tony - 17-Sep-16 @ 11:16 AM
All I can say is this, I was given an inflatable ten foot dinghy with a 2HP outboard from a relative who was too ill to use it. I thought a day out now and again on the river with my wife would be ideal pleasure now that we are retired. However, I find that the craft is not registered, so that will be a cost of £124. It will also need a safety certificate costing £34.80. To get this I will have to have it examined by a qualified examiner, minimum cost £49.99. Then I need insurance to sail it on a river or canal, of a minimum of one million quid, costing £30.00 min. Then once all this is in place, I can apply for a 30 day river licence costing £102.00. So for a maximum of 30 days of pleasure with my wife in a ten foot rubber dinghy, which was gifted to me, it will cost me £340.79 for the first year. The reality is that if I get out in the boat three or four days a year, this will be pushing it! So this is about £130 p/day. Granted that next year it would only cost me my river licence and insurance of £130, but after giving it due financial consideration, I think I will part with the craft and go on a chartered river cruise!
Bear - 21-May-16 @ 11:12 AM
I got a kayak iam wanting to put a electric outboard 50 lbs do I need another license already got one for kayak
Turkish - 24-Apr-16 @ 10:46 AM
If you all look at the article here and then at all the posters you can see that it is clearly misleading just like all other sites where people are asking for 'simple' information. There need be a line drawn as to what is a 'Licence' and what is a 'Licence', most of these internet pages are made up of companies telling you about 'driving a Camel in Iceland' and really only wanting to frighten you in to using their service to get a 'Licence' that you will never need. Boat 'Handling' and boat 'Safety' are quite something else. You get up in the morning and go looking for a boat, you buy said boat and you drive it away, no 'Licence'. You should ask the seller if it has a 'Boat safety Certificate', if it has not then you need get one, possibly from the last person who gave it one. If you have not got a sticker on your starboard side of the boat then you need get one, it is a 'Tax' not a 'Licence, you can get it online, no problem. If you are going 'Out' of UK waters then you will need a 'Licence' to drive and use you boat in another countries waters, you will need a CEVNI too, but do not pay for one because any good school of sailing will offer one free of charge included in your course cost. If you have bought your boat for yourself and family, no problem, if you are giving paid tours or using it as a taxi then you need ask about the correct 'Licence'.Happy Boating.
TommyP - 21-Feb-16 @ 4:15 PM
Never under estimate the power of the seas.
Lightfootladtwo - 9-Feb-16 @ 11:59 AM
You do not need a license for coastal or open seas but need all other paperwork.
Lightfootladtwo - 9-Feb-16 @ 11:54 AM
Hello, as an italian citizen but resident in the Uk and sailing in the med, I am subject to Uk law. The italian authorities suggest me to keep on board a letter / resolution that proves there is no need for a permit. "Who Needs a Licence? Boating around the coast or further out to sea is open to all and does not require a licence. Passage down one of Britain’s many inland waterways however requires a boating licence or registration with the appropriate authority in charge of it." Who can help me, where do i find such a resolution? I am finding it hard since it's something not needed in the Uk , i find no article from an official website saying 'this is not needed'....
Andymagrini - 12-Jan-16 @ 5:19 PM
MonicaB - Your Question:
I have recently purchase a Clinker 12 foot sailing dinghy, which I will keep at home, and hope to use on the Norfolk Broads. I have purchased Insurance but am confused as to what `toll or license is required to sail it. The yearly one seems to be for those that are kept on the broads. `does the toll apply to mine which I take home?I will also be purchasing an outboard for it too.

Our Response:
The Canals and Rivers Trust has lots of information about how to get a licence and where it can be used. With regard to the Norfolk broads tolls these are payable all vessels kept in the navigation area or adjacent waters for more than 28 days in any tolls year. So assuming you'll be on the waters for more than 28 days each year you will probably have to pay the toll.
SailingAndBoating - 1-Sep-15 @ 10:54 AM
I have recently purchase a Clinker 12 foot sailing dinghy, which I will keep at home, and hope to use on the Norfolk Broads.I have purchased Insurance but am confused as to what `toll or license is required to sail it. The yearly one seems to be for those that are kept on the broads. `does the toll apply to mine which I take home? I will also be purchasing an outboard for it too.
MonicaB - 31-Aug-15 @ 2:13 PM
@swa. You need to have completed a boat safety certificate to get a licence to own a boat for use on inland waterways. This is a requirement of the Canals and Rivers trust to make sure their waterways are as safe as possible. The helmsman course is not related to this.
swa - 28-Apr-15 @ 10:36 AM
If I understand the article correctly, I personally do not need a licence in the UK at all in order to operate a motorboat. However if I want to operate it on inland waterways, I need to get a licence for my boat accordingly. This is probably similar to the law in Germany, however German regulation requires a personal licence if operating a boat with more than 15hp (sport boat licence see). I wonder what the purpose of the helmsman course is apart from getting better boat insurance and the certificate of competence to use my boat abroad? Please correct me if I'm wrong? Thank you.
swa - 22-Apr-15 @ 10:04 PM
@jessica. Yes for a canal and some rivers you may need a licence. Check out this information from the canals and rivers trust.
SailingAndBoating - 4-Feb-15 @ 11:21 AM
I have a small 8ft long rowing boat with no motor, would this boat need insurance or a licence to take and use it occasionally on a canal in Yorkshire?
Jessica - 31-Jan-15 @ 8:22 PM
@Mike- In the UK anyone you can use a boat up to 24metres in length around our coast and on most inland waterways without a boat licence. At sea you will need to comply with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations however. More information can be found here
SailingAndBoating - 15-Jan-15 @ 2:13 PM
I was wondering if I was to use my boat out at sea like the English channel would I need a license for my boat
MIKE - 14-Jan-15 @ 12:34 PM
@chris. It's all shown in the above article mate.
docmartin - 29-Sep-14 @ 11:46 AM
Hello let me know wt I have to due , todriveboats or yacht , ? How muchcost me , how long time is go be the course ,then how many boats I can drive when I get my licence, thank you
Chris - 26-Sep-14 @ 12:11 AM
@ratman - Yes for larger craft (ie not small pleasure boats) you need the "Patron de Embarciones de recreo Titilo". There is a test involved in order to get the licence (both theory & practical). If you already hold a UK licence (ICC certified Yacht Master or day skipper certificate) this can be almalgamated into the spanish licence.
SailingAndBoating - 18-Jun-14 @ 11:14 AM
During a recent holiday in Spain - there was a requirement for a licence to hire a pleasure/motor boat (the smaller types didn't have that requirement).What kind of licence would I need and how would I go about getting one? Many thanks
RatMan - 17-Jun-14 @ 10:07 AM
Do I require a licence for a 16 Foot boat on the River Wye
boner - 30-Oct-13 @ 4:15 PM
Do I require a licence for a 16 foot outboard driven on the River Wye
boner - 30-Oct-13 @ 4:12 PM
Do I require a licence for a 16Foot boat with outboard on the river Wye
boner - 30-Oct-13 @ 4:09 PM
does a dinghy( two man) with a 4hp motor require a licence on the local canall
roy1 - 10-Aug-13 @ 8:15 PM
can you please tell me where i can get a boats history//ssr 124715......its at sandwich boatyard////stoner estate kent.....ive been interested in this boat now for a year...thankyou....
speedboatpaul - 5-Aug-13 @ 11:08 AM
i would like to know how if i need a licence to go round the i know there are different size boats with small outboad motor and how long would it take to get a licence to drive a larger one witch i could carry at least 4 passengers family sort of
oscar - 21-Sep-12 @ 10:27 AM
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