1. Check if you need a licence

You must have a boatmasters’ licence if you’re the master of certain vessels on:

  • inland waters in categories A to D, such as canals, rivers, lakes and some estuaries
  • ‘limited’ coastal area operations - no more than 5 miles from the land and 15 miles from where your vessel sets off or arrives

You may be prosecuted and fined for not having the right boatmasters’ licence.

Find out what types and class of vessels can operate on UK inland waters.

When you don’t need a licence

You don’t need a boatmasters’ licence if you’re in charge of:

  • a pleasure vessel, including hire boats used as pleasure vessels
  • fishing vessels

Using alternative certificates

Some certificates can be used instead of a boatmasters’ licence, including STCW certificates of competency and certificates awarded by the Royal Yachting Association.

If you have an alternative certificate, you must: