The UK Rules
'Follow the Regulations'
Boats, River Boating, Waterways, and the Sea

Boats, River Boating, and Waterway Laws

The UK boat and waterway laws regulate all licencing and registration rules. This includes boat safety regulations and equipment requirements for watercraft sailed around Britain.

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

This informative section is plain sailing for boaters. But, be sure to follow the rules of the waterways while you go boating around British rivers and seaways.

Use this guide to check what river rules you must follow in England and Wales. Check what boating insurance certification you need to be sail.

If you own a small boat or a large vessel, you can find out how to register your sailing craft for use on rivers and canals.

You must follow all the safety rules of the sea around the United Kingdom. Make sure you have the legal right to go sailing at sea and around the coastal systems of Great Britain.

Boat Rules and Regulations

UK Boat Ownership GuideBoat Ownership

OWNING A BOAT: Check the rules for buying and owning a boat for use on inland waterways. Sailing at sea means your vessel may need licencing and registering with the proper authorities.


MCA Licences for Boatmasters UK GuideBoatmasters' Licence

MCA BOATMASTER: A section explaining the process of boatmaster licence application and renewal. Check how to apply for a boatmasters' licence, replace it, renew it, or upgrade one.


Boat Insurance Laws UK GuideInsurance

BOAT INSURANCE LAWS: As a rule, owning a boat in the United Kingdom means you need to insure it. The standard of boat insurance you may need will depend on where you use your it and for what purpose.


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

RIVER WORKS LICENCE: Use this guide to find out if you need Environment Agency flood defence consent. You may need 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. 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

UK RIVER LEVELS: 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.


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. You should contact the Environment Agency for further information.


UK Ship Registration Rules and Regulations GuideShips Register

SMALL SHIPS REGISTER: How to use The UK Ship Register at MCA for registering a small vessel or boat for use at sea. Check out 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, Boating, and Waterway Laws in the United Kingdom