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Boatmasters Licence Application

The Merchant Shipping (Boatmasters' Qualifications, Crew and Hours of Work) Regulations 2015 govern the legal requirements for the issuance of Boatmasters licences (BML) in the United Kingdom.

This section explains the process of boatmaster licence application and license renewal. Check how to apply for a boatmasters' licence, replace it, renew it, or upgrade one.

MCA Boatmaster UKA boat master must have a valid licence to run certain types of vessels.

The boatmasters’ licence gives authorisation to operate a passenger-carrying or non-passenger carrying commercial vessel.

The boat master will need a boatmasters’ licence for most types of sailing vessels that run on:

  • Inland waters in categories A to D (see inland waters categories below).
  • ‘Limited’ coastal area operations.

The term ‘limited’ means no more than five (5) miles from land and fifteen (15) miles from where the vessel sets off or arrives.

But, authorisation is not required for all sailing crafts and vessels. You can operate a pleasure vessel or a fishing vessel without a boatmaster licence. That also includes hire boats which get used as pleasure vessels.

In case you were wondering:

The MMCA produces further guidance on which types of vessels that can operate on inland waters in the United Kingdom. It also has references to EU requirements and regulations.

Note: Boatmaster definition refers to the person who is in command of an inland waterways vessel. Failing to have the correct boatmaster licence can result in a fine and a prosecution.

Boatmasters Licence ‘Alternative Certificate’

Certain certificates can get used as an alternative to a boatmasters’ licence. Seafarers can use STCW certificate of competency (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping).

Certificates awarded by the Royal Yachting Association also qualify. Even so, using an alternative certificate means you must:

Application for Boatmasters Licence

You can get further details from the boatmasters’ qualifications and hours of work notice before you apply, such as:

  • Which vessel types require a boatmasters licence and what kind of license you need.
  • What documents you need to apply for a boatmaster licence and what you need to revalidate one.
  • Alternative qualifications you can use instead and information on local knowledge requirements. This may include localised river conditions and flood warnings.

Before applying for a boatmasters certificate you should also:

A new entrant will need to
  1. Read the boatmasters’ qualifications and hours of work notice (see above).
  2. Download the ‘Application for a BML licence – new entrants (MSF 4364)‘.
  3. Check the ‘Boatmasters’ table of fees‘ and pay the correct amount.

Replace or Renew a Boatmasters Licence

The current cost of a replacement licence is £23. You will need to use the form ‘Application for a replacement of a Boatmasters’ Licence (MSF 4390)‘.

As a rule, a boatmasters’ licence lasts five (5) years and costs £31 to renew it. Use the form titled ‘Revalidation of a boatmasters’ licence (MSF 4365)‘. Return it to the address written on the form.

Note: You can view further details about current Maritime and Coastguard Agency fees for a range of maritime services on the GOV.UK website.

Boatmasters Licence Cost to Upgrade

The fee for upgrading a licence varies. Use form MSF 4370 ‘Apply for a Boatmasters’ Licence upgrade‘ to upgrade it or add another area to it.

Exemptions: 2006 Boatmasters’ Regulations

You must apply for a ‘Tier 2 Level 2’ licence to keep working if your exemption is about to expire. It covers all areas described on the exemption certificate. To continue working with an exemption certificate you must:

  • Confirm you can apply for a Tier 2 boatmasters’ licence. Read section 22 of the boatmasters’ qualifications and hours of work notice.
  • Download and complete the application (Form MSF 4399). Send it to your nearest marine office and pay the current fee.

Note: Failing to have the correct boatmaster licence when your exemption expires can result in a fine and a prosecution.

Inland Waterways Categories

The category of ‘inland waters’ can include any body of water not categorised as ‘sea’. Examples include canals, lakes, tidal and non-tidal rivers, and some estuarial waters. An estuary is an arm of sea that extends inland to meet the mouth of a river.

The 4 different categories of inland waters get classified as one of the following:

  • Category A: Narrow rivers and canals where the depth of water is generally less than 1.5 metres.
  • Category B: Wider rivers and canals where the depth of water is generally 1.5 metres or more. Significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 0.6 metres at any time.
  • Category C: Tidal rivers, estuaries and large, deep lakes and lochs. Significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 1.2 metres at any time.
  • Category D: Tidal rivers and estuaries. Significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 2 metres at any time.

MCA Boatmaster Licence Application and Renewal for United Kingdom