The UK Rules
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Boats and Waterways

Boats and Waterway Laws

Boat and waterway laws regulate all licencing and registration rules. This includes boat safety regulations and equipment requirements of watercraft around the United Kingdom.

BOAT LAWS UK: Find out what you need to know about boating rules and regulations.

This informative section is plain sailing for boaters while boating around British waterways.

Use this guide to check what boating insurance certification you need.

Find out how to register your boat for use on rivers and canals.

Ensure you have the legal right to go sailing at sea and around the coastal systems of Great Britain.

Boat Rules and Regulations

Boating Rules and Regulations UK GuideBoat Ownership

OWNING A BOAT: Buying a boat means following safety regulations and checking whether you need insurance. The pleasures of buying and owning a boat for use on inland waterways mean following boat laws UK. Sailing at sea means your vessel may need licencing and registering with the proper authorities.

MCA Licences for Boatmasters UK GuideBoatmaster Licence

MCA BOATMASTERS LICENSE: You must possess an authorized boatmaster's licence to run a passenger-carrying or non-passenger carrying commercial vessel. This section provides information and guidance for boatmaster licencing applications, replacing, renewing or upgrading.

Boat Insurance Laws UK GuideInsurance

BOAT INSURANCE LAWS: Insuring a boat is determined by where and how you use it according to the navigation authority. As a rule you need 'third party' insurance for at least £1 million for using powered and some unpowered boats on inland waterways.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have further guidance for small commercial boat owners. In some cases you may need statutory certificates.

Check Permission to do Work on a River or Flood DefencePermission for River Work

RIVER WORKS LICENCE: Use this guide to determine whether you need an Environment Agency environmental permit. Check whether you need flood defence consent, or other permission to do work on a river, next to a watercourse, a flood barrier, or sea defence.

How to Register a Boat UK GuideRegister a Boat

HOW TO REGISTER A BOAT: Boats must be registered with the relevant authority. You may need to have a UK boat license for use on inland waterways and at sea around the United Kingdom. The UK boat registration and licencing rules also apply if you keep a sailing craft or water vessel on rivers and canals in Britain.

Current River Conditions and Closures GuideRiver Conditions

CHECK RIVER LEVELS AND FLOOD WARNINGS: Review and monitor the current river conditions and closure alerts for all the major rivers in England and Wales. It is the role of the Environment Agency to forecast any risk of flooding across England and Wales.

River Thames Accommodation Licence GuideRiver Thames Licence

RIVER THAMES ACCOMMODATION LICENCE: You need to obtain a licence if you buy or live in a property with a structure. The same rule applies if you plan to build one, change one, or retain any structures which float on or in the London River Thames. Use this information to apply for a River Thames accommodation licence.

Examples include a pontoon, boom, jetty, piling, or any other structure that cuts into the river bank, such as a slipway or a dock. When you licence a structure on, over, or in the River Thames, permits are only valid until or unless you move or change the construction.

You must display the licence plate permanently on the actual structure for which it is relevant. Annual licence fees run from September 29th and they are non-transferable. Contact the Environment Agency for further information: Telephone 03708 506 506 Monday to Friday (8am to 6pm)

UK Ship Registration Rules and Regulations GuideShips Register

SMALL SHIPS REGISTER: How to use The UK Ship Register at MCA. The process for registering your small vessel or boat for use at sea is simple. Follow the steps on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Small Ship Register online service.

Boating Safety at Sea Rules and Regulations UK GuideSea Safety

SAFETY AT SEA: You could face prosecution if you do not follow boating rules and regulations. Circumstances can get worse if your ignorance causes a boating accident.

HSE SHIPS: A ship at sea runs in a self-contained environment. That means the ship owners and operators are responsible for health and safety on ships.

MCA SAFETY: Check out boat safety at sea in the United Kingdom and its related shipping laws. They are further clarified in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency 'Life saving signals' leaflet.

Boats and Waterway Laws UK
Last Updated 2017