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EA Boat Licence: Environment Agency

UK boat registration takes place with the Environment Agency or relevant authority. This page explains how to get an EA boat licence to register your vessel or watercraft.

EA Boat Registration UK: Environment agency boat registration and licensing rules also apply if you keep a small sailing craft or water vessel on rivers and canals in Great Britain.

What is the definition of a boat for the purpose of boating in the United Kingdom? For registering and licensing a boat gets defined as any:

  • Open Boat: Examples include canoe, paddle board, dinghy, and rowing boat.
  • Vessel (with or without a motor): Examples include sailing boat, river boat, canal boat, and houseboat.

You may need to register your boat or vessel for use on inland waterways and at sea around the United Kingdom.

Those who own a boat must have adequate insurance and a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate to get UK boat registration. A boat visitor registration or licence is available for shorter periods of use.

Note: You must renew your environment agency boat licence each year. Remember to use the boat register UK for the relevant waterway that you want to keep or use your sailing craft on.

Exemptions: Environment Agency Canoe Licence and Rowing Boat

Members of the British Canoe Union may not need to register a canoe with the navigation authority. Rowing clubs or associations can register a rowing boat for use on some waterways through British Rowing organisation.

Environment Agency (EA) Boat Licence Registration UKUK Boating Licence to Carry Passengers

What if you want to carry more than 12 passengers on your boat? In this case you need a passenger-carrying certificate issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Licence for Commercial Boat UK

If you want to use your boat commercially (for commercial use) you must apply for a boatmasters licence.

Contacting the Navigation Authorities

Use this information to register or license your boat with the navigation authority. Make sure to contact those responsible for the waterway where you want to use it.

Licence to Use a Boat at Sea

You can register your boat with the UK Ship Register for use at sea.

Canals and Rivers: UK River Licence

Contact the Canal and River Trust licence renewal department for boat registration UK. This covers you on most canals and some rivers. It may be best to buy a ‘canal boat gold licence’ if you intend using several waterways.

Note: It permits you to use all Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust waterways.

Norfolk and Suffolk Broads (adjacent waters)

Contact the ‘Broads Authority boat licence’ to register your boat.

River Thames, River Medway and East Anglia

Contact the waterway you want to use and register with the Environment Agency by downloading the application form. The River Thames boat licence annual registration runs from 1 January to 31 December.
As a rule the River Medway, Anglian waterways, and Rye Harbour registrations run from 1 April to 31 March.

The Royal Military Canal (Hythe Military Canal)

There is no boat registration required for use between West Hythe Dam in Shorncliffe, Kent and Iden Lock in Cliffe End, East Sussex. You should contact Shepway District Council to register a boat for use between the West Hythe Dam and Seabrook.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Check if you need to register your boat with Scottish Canals or NI Direct for boat registration Ireland.

Other Waterways around the United Kingdom

Contact the Inland Waterways Association of Great Britain to find the best navigation authority for other areas.

Note: The Environment Agency (EA) launched a consultation for boat owners in July 2021 to start a simpler boat registration scheme.

Boat Owner Enforcement Penalties

If you have boat ownership in the United Kingdom you should check your licence or registration for extra rules that apply to your waterway. An enforcement notice or penalty may get issued.

The notice may get put on your boat by an enforcement officer if your craft is on an inland waterway and:

  • The boat is not licensed or registered.
  • The boat is not licensed or registered for the waterway you are using.
  • The boat license or registration is not displayed correctly.
  • It breaches the terms and conditions of the licence or registration.

If you do not display an up-to-date licence or registration you may get prosecuted and fined up to £1,000. You may even have your boat removed from the water.

Contact your regional navigation authority for further information on UK boating rules on penalty or enforcement notices.

UK Boat License: Register a Boat with the Environment Agency in the United Kingdom