Legal Requirements

All craft have four main requirements before they can be used on the inland waterways, these are:

Getting a Cruising Licence


Your boat needs to have a licence to use the canals and rivers. Tariffs can be obtained from the navigation authority concerned. Some reservoirs also have special licence arrangements. You can also buy a licence, which allows you to use all Canal & River Trust waterways and those of the Environment Agency. This is known as the Gold Licence.

These are usually for 12 months for craft, which remain in the water. Shorter-term licences are available. For boats visiting the waterways and trail-boats, day week and month licences are available. Licence costs are set nationally and are dependent on boat length in metre bands. Licences can be obtained from the relevant navigation authority for the waterways you intend to cruise. Navigation authorities are listed on individual waterway pages.

See also: Residential boat licences.


Boat Safety Certificate

Your boat will need a Boat Safety Certificate in order to obtain a licence. These are likened to the MOT test that cars undergo and are issued after an annual inspection of the craft by a listed examiner, to make sure that the following features are compliant with a published set of standards:

  • Fuel
  • Gas
  • Electrical systems
  • Safety equipment

Find out more about the Boat Safety Certificate and the Boat Safety Scheme.

Finding a Valid Mooring

Unless a boat is not kept in the water all the time or is continuously cruising, craft need to have an approved mooring place where they can be kept when not on the move. A fee is payable for these places, which will be dependent on the facilities at the site. See more information about finding a boat mooring.

Boat Insurance

To obtain a cruising license you will need to provide proof that your boat has third party insurance for at least £1,000,000. This will safeguard the owner or person in charge of the boat from claims made against you for injury or damage. You should also insure the boat itself against loss or damage and provide cover for the safety of the crew and the contents, as this is probably not provided as an extension of your home contents policy.

Details of companies specialising in marine insurance can be found in the waterway press, but boatyards, marinas and brokers may also provide details of insurance packages. As a rough guide, insurance generally costs around half a percent of the value of the boat. This will vary with things like the age and type of the boat and security at your mooring site.