The UK has over 4000 miles of waterway and every year has more then ten million visitors to fish, walk the towing path, observe wildlife or go boating and enjoy the sheer splendour of our canals and navigable rivers.
If you plan to go boating on the UK’s inland waterways then you should be aware of the following;
British Waterways (BW) and the Environment Agency (EA) are the two major navigation authorities in charge of inland rivers, canals, estuaries and harbours in the UK. All craft wishing to cruise on the inland waterways network must be registered with the appropriate region of BW or the EA. Failure to do so may result in prosecution and a fine.
Every type of pleasure
craft must be registered and licensed, including motor cruisers, sailing cruisers, narrow boats, open
vessels such as canoes or rowing boats, and houseboats. A variety of different licences are available,
from annual licences to visitor licences. Contact the Environment Agency or British Waterways to find
out what the registration and licence arrangements are for your area.
With the exception of privately owned open boats, all applications must be accompanied by a valid Boat Safety Scheme certificate.
Every vessel must display its current valid navigation certificate and registration number at all times.
For rivers and canals not controlled by the BW or the EA, you should seek advice from whoever controls the navigation and their licensing requirements.
Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) was jointly established in 1997 by the Environment Agency and British Waterways
to promote the safety of boats on the inland waterways.
All boats navigating British Waterways or Environment Agency controlled inland waterways must meet the BSS requirements in order to be eligible for a navigation licence.
BSS requirements cover safety, environmental and best safety practice recommendations. The complete set of Boat Safety Scheme Check List items has been split into two categories: Mandatory and Advisory Check List items.
Mandatory Checks are those items that British Waterways and the Environment Agency insist your privately-owned boat must comply with since they represent either essential safety requirements or measures designed to prevent environmental pollution. To meet these minimum safety requirements your boat must comply with all Mandatory Check List items before you can apply for a navigation licence.
Advisory Check List items relate to issues such as best safety practice. Although a privately owned vessel does not have to comply with these items to get a navigation licence it is strongly recommended that you do. The more confidence you have that you and your boat meet the highest safety standards possible, the more you and your crew will enjoy your boating experience.
More detailed information about the BSS requirements can be found on the BSS website, http://www.boatsafetyscheme.com/site/Home_1.asp or by contacting Boat Safety Scheme, 64 Clarendon, Road, Watford, Herts, WD17 1DA, Tel: 01923 201278 Fax: 01923 201420.
For more details about the UK’s inland waterways
network, visit the websites of the Inland Waterway’s Association (IWA), British Waterways (BW) or the
Environment Agency (EA).
If you plan to use inland waterways for commercial use, including trip boats, hotel boats and water taxis, please follow the links below to find out about the relevant code of practice and the Boatmaster’s License.