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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/river-thames-boat-registration-requirements/river-thames-boat-regsitration-requirements-october-2016
This page sets out the requirements for obtaining a boat registration. The Environment Agency takes enforcement action if it finds any boat moored or in use if it is not displaying a current, valid registration plate.
All boats kept, used or let for hire on the river must be registered.
If you have a boat and you keep it afloat and/or use it on the River Thames, you need to register it, even if you do not use it. This requirement extends to every part of the non-tidal River Thames between Cricklade Bridge and Teddington Lock, and the short section of the tidal River Thames between Teddington Lock and the Port of London Authority’s boundary, including backwaters and marinas.
Third party insurance policy
If you wish to register a powered boat (one with an engine), you must have a minimum of third party insurance cover while your boat is registered with the Environment Agency. This means the policy must insure the owner of the boat and such other persons as are authorised by the owner to have control of the boat, in respect of any liability which may be incurred by the owner, or any such other person, resulting from the presence of the boat on the waterway, in respect of the death of, or bodily injury to, any person or any damage to property.
The policy must be for a minimum sum of £1,000,000 (one million pounds).
The policy must be issued by an insurer authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to carry on in Great Britain or in Northern Ireland insurance business of a relevant class or who has corresponding permission under the law of another member state of the European Community.
When you apply for an annual registration, the Environment Agency will ask you to complete details of your insurance provider, policy number and expiry date on the application form. If you are coming onto the Thames as a short-period visitor from another waterway, they will ask you to sign a declaration that you have a valid policy.
If your policy expires during the registration period you must obtain renewed/new cover, but you do not need to inform the Environment Agency. However it may carry out insurance policy checks of registered boats every month.
You must have an insurance policy for your unpowered houseboat which covers third party liabilities up to at least £1,000,000. The insurance must be valid for the full duration of your registration.
If you wish to register an unpowered boat (such as a canoe or rowing boat) the Environment Agency strongly recommends that you take out an insurance policy on the same basis.
Display of registration plate
You must display your registration plate aboard your boat in order to allow the Environment Agency to identify it and check that it is registered correctly.
You should display the plate where it is clearly visible to officers at locks, on the bank and aboard patrol boats (eg, a windscreen or other forward-facing surface).
You should remove previous years’ registration plates after the expiry date and the Environment Agency may ask you to return these.
Display of boat name
If you own a powered boat, you must display your boat’s name, exactly as it appears on your registration certificate, on each side of the bow and on the stern. (It is acceptable for owners of narrowboats to display the boat name in the traditional way on each side of the cabin.)
The name must be clearly marked in plain letters in the following minimum sizes:
- 5.1cm (2in) for a boat no more than 6.09m (20ft) in length
- 7.6cm (3in) for a boat between 6.09m (20ft) and 9.14m (30ft) in length
- 10.2cm (4in) for a boat between 9.14 (30ft) and 15.23m (50ft) in length
- 15.2cm (6in) for a boat exceeding 15.23m (50ft)
Change of ownership
If you sell your boat, it is your responsibility to notify the Environment Agency of the change of ownership in writing. You must provide the Environment Agency with the name and address of the person to whom ownership has transferred.
Until you do so, you remain the legal owner of the boat and are therefore responsible for it. This means you are still responsible for registering it and paying any charges due.
Inspection of boats
You, or the person in charge at the time, must provide reasonable facilities for any authorised officer of the Environment Agency to access your boat to inspect it to make sure these requirements are being complied with (eg, to check the construction and equipment standards).
You, or the person in charge, must make the whole of any installation on the boat available for inspection (eg, to allow a boat safety spot check).
Construction and equipment standards
You must make sure your powered boat complies with the Environment Agency’s construction and equipment standards at all times it is kept, let for hire or used on the River Thames.
These standards are set out in the BSS Examination Checking Procedures for Privately Owned and Managed Vessels and for hire vessels the additional Hire Boats Examination Checking Procedures. Go to the Boat Safety Scheme website to download them.
For most powered boats, you must have either valid Boat Safety Scheme Certification (BSSC) or, for boats up to 4 years old, a valid Declaration of Conformity made by the boat’s builder under the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD).
Boats not required to have a BSSC or Declaration of Conformity at any time are:
- privately-owned, open vessels that have no domestic cooking, heating, refrigerating or lighting appliances installed, are not fitted with other permanent electrical systems (such as navigation lights, engine start/tilt etc) and which are propelled solely by an outboard engine without a fixed fuel system.
- passenger boats with a current Passenger Certificate issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. If you own one of these boats, you must still certify on your registration application form your boat complies with the Environment Agency’s construction and equipment standards in every respect.
Valid Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certification is required to support your houseboat registration application if you have on board any installed fuel tanks, batteries, LPG cylinders or power generating engines supplying electricity for domestic use or for charging batteries.
230v electricity, LPG or natural gas installations supplied from the shore fall outside the scope of the BSS. However, owners of houseboats with shore‐based supplies of electricity and gas should ensure that these utilities are installed and maintained in accordance with the relevant regulations and codes of practice and are routinely tested by suitably qualified and competent persons.
The maximum fine for failing to comply with the Environment Agency’s registration requirements is £1,000. It may also take action to relocate or remove a boat from the waterway if it is not registered.
If you would like further advice on how to register your boat, please contact the Environment Agency boat registration team:
- call: 03708 506 506
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- write to:
PO Box 544