Registering and using boats or pleasure craft

If you own a boat or pleasure craft, you don't necessarily need to register or get a licence if you want to keep or use it on inland waterways. For some facilities, however, you will need to register before you can use them.

Register for use on inland waterways

As a boat or pleasure craft owner, if you want to use navigable waterways maintained by Waterways Ireland you will need to register with them. This will allow you to use its facilities.

For all other navigable waterways, you should check the signs at all facilities for information about who owns it. You may need to register with the facility you want to use.

For some facilities, such as those belonging to riverside hotels, registration may not be necessary – you may be able to pay on the day for the facilities you wish to use.

You may need to get a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate before you can register or buy a licence to use inland waterways.

You can also register your boat’s details with the UK coastguard.

You can find further information, including about insurance, at this link:

Register for use at sea

For use at sea, you can register your boat or pleasure craft on the UK Ship Register.


You can find information about pleasure craft regulations at this link:

Ship Radio Licence

As an owner of a pleasure craft you will need a Ship Radio Licence. Registration is online at Ofcom.

You can find out more at these links:


There is basic boat-handling and safety advice on the boater's handbook.

You must follow international safety regulations if you’re using a boat at sea, including what safety equipment you must have.

You'll also need to know about fire safety, how to prevent a collision,  what to do if you get into difficulty, and life-saving signals.

You can find out more on these pages:

There is also information on the safety on inland waterways page.

Out-of-date or damaged flares

You need to check flares regularly to make sure they're in good condition and dispose of out-of-date or damaged flares safely.

If you have an accident

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigates all accidents on all UK boats and all accidents in any UK waters, including inland waterways.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board carries out investigations into marine casualties in Irish waters or involving Irish vessels. 

Calling for help

If you get into difficulty at sea, contact the coastguard.

If you're in life-threatening distress, make a Mayday call on your VHF radio.

Changing boat name or port

You can find information about changing the name of your boat at this page:

Making a complaint

Find out below who to complain to if you have experienced an issue on a waterway or with a service at this link:

More useful links

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