24th May 2019

Making insurance plain sailing: Do I need a licence to use a boat in the UK?


Unlike driving a car, there is no requirement for a skipper to pass any test or obtain any qualification before using a boat in UK waterways. Coastal waters are open to all, and there is no requirement for the vessel to be licenced.  But the same can’t be said for vessels operating on inland waterways.

Boating licenses are issued by different agencies depending on where the vessel will be used. For example, the Broads Authority manages the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads while the Environment Agency runs the River Thames, River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia. Scottish Canals manages Scotland, and the Canal & River Trust looks after everything else.

License fees are used to raise funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the inland waterways system.

To obtain a licence, the issuer will require the vessel to have a Boat Safety Certificate and, at a minimum, third party insurance. In order to obtain a Boat Safety Certificate, the vessel will need to pass a number of safety tests – similar to an MOT. An insurance policy must also be in place which covers (at minimum) the owner or user’s legal liability to others. So, if the vessel were to collide with a bridge and cause it to collapse, the repair cost must be covered under the vessel’s insurance.

It’s also important to make sure that your vessel is registered in the UK – more information can be found here.

To obtain a quotation for your vessel’s insurance or to discuss your requirements in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our expert team using our web form or call us on 01843 603345.