Registering Your Boat in UK Waters


There is no single mandatory/compulsory national registration scheme for small leisure boats that is used in all UK waters.  However there are both voluntary registration schemes and several mandatory local registration schemes for small boats.

Tidal Waters - Small Ships Register

This SSR scheme is voluntary for small UK leisure craft. However it is mandatory for all large vessels and all commercial craft.

If you do choose to register on the SSR, your boat would be registered on part 3 of the Small Ships Register.  Registration details can be found via the www. website. The fee for registering on the Small Ships Register is currently £25.

Most leisure boaters do not bother with the SSR. However it is definitely worth registering your pride and joy on the SSR for one of three reasons, all to do with proof of boat ownership.

The first reason for going on the SSR is if you need to prove legal title of your vessel. The second reason is if you intend taking your boat abroad and you will need to prove it is British Registered and/or confirm its nationality (especially when you go to a foreign country whose bureaucrats seem to spend more time and effort harassing British boaters than they do sorting out their Eurozone crisis). The third and final reason to want to register on the SSR is if your marine mortgage or boat finance company requires it.

Tidal Waters - Coastguard- MCA

The UK Marine and Coastguard Agency MCA run a voluntary registration scheme, which is intended to speed up the rescue of smaller boats. This is the Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme, details are found on MCA form CG66. 

It is worth registering for CG66 if you use your boat in the more onerous weather conditions, or in remote sea areas that increase the likelihood for you to needing to be rescued. If sedate summer weather boating is your scene, then don’t bother.

Lake District

Registration of boats in the Lake District is controlled by the Lake District National Parks Authority. Full details are found on their website, look under the Lake District Boat Owners Guide (and please don’t mention the much hated and economically disastrous speed limit on Lake Windermere..…).

Boat Safety Scheme

This Boat Safety Scheme BSS is slightly different from the boat registration - however the requirements are closely aligned with it. You will need both BSS and registration for inland waterways. Boats used on UK rivers and canals will either have to be very new, or they have to have a valid Boat Safety Scheme certificate. As the name suggests the BSS concentrates on the safety related issues found on a boat.

The best analogy is that this BSS inspection is that it is similar to an MOT test for your car.

Canals – Canals and Rivers Trust (British Waterways Board)

Canals in the UK are run by the Canals and Rivers Trust, formerly called the British Waterways Board. Their boat licence details are found at search “licencing”.

This licensing requirement is now quite strict and onerous. You will need your BSS to get a boat licence.

Quite simply, if it floats on a canal and it has a human on board, it will need registering – even if you call it a canoe!

Main Rivers - Environment Agency

Many of the major UK Rivers come under the Environment Agency for boat registration.  This registration is very similar to the canals –indeed you may want to register for both at the same time.  Details on, then drop down through the various searches of leisure, outdoor recreation, and then boats.

Please note fishing in rivers is also regulated by the EA. So if you want to fish from a boat you will need one licence for the boat and one for the rod.

The Broads-Broads Authority

This lovely area of East Anglia has a separate boat licensing scheme, all run by the Broads Authority. See , then search down to “boating” and “tolls and registration”.

The Solent (also known as Southampton Municipal Boating Lake)

We don’t know anything about boat registration on the Solent, simply because we never go there.

From what our foreign correspondent has told us, we understand that in the Solent there are many  southerners, who’s idea of weekend boating seems a bit odd. He tells us that they meet up to travel around in a big convoy, which then only goes clockwise in a circle around some yellow buoys. This strange practice apparently stops their group of boats all getting lost. Why you would want to register your boat to do this seems a very odd idea.

Other Lakes and Reservoirs

These may or may not allow access to your boat and/or may require separate boat licensing. There are as many different local schemes and rules as there are different areas of water  You need to directly contact the lake or reservoir where you intend to use your boat.

We usually find that local powerboat and sailing clubs are usually very helpful to visiting Yorkshire men and women and – following a swift pint at the bar - they will tell you what you really need to know about the local rules.
Public Slipways

Some public slipways require your boats to be licensed and registered, before you can use their slipway. However other slipways are free and require no registration. Please check with the relevant local council, who own and run most public slipways in the UK. Inside the UK National Parks, it will often be the National Park Authority who control access to the slipways.

Launch Fees

Please note that there is often a launch fee, which will be in addition to the requirement to register.

International Travel

The above list only applies to the UK.  To take you boat abroad, more and different rules apply. Each EU country has different rules, so please check first before travelling.

Boat Ownership- Conclusion about Registration

Therefore whether you need to register your boat depends on where in the UK you intend to use it. For some areas, no registration is required. For others multiple registrations are required.