Canal & River Trust Consultation on Boat Licensing

Many readers will be aware that Canal & River Trust is currently reviewing boat licensing.  The first stage was to consult verbally with individual principal boating organisations.  RBOA has been consulted, and has summarised its views in the following Press Release, issued 29.03.2017. Further on in the process, all boaters will have an opportunity to make their personal views known to CRT.

RBOA Press Release:
Canal & River Trust Consultation on Boat Licensing
The Residential Boat Owners’ Association (RBOA) has welcomed the opportunity to submit
views to Canal & River Trust (CRT) regarding CRT’s consultation on boat licensing.
For more than 50 years RBOA has worked to increase the acceptance and positive
perception of residential boat occupancy. The Association’s submission to CRT, as laid out
here, is strongly influenced by its continued aims on this subject. Consideration should be
given to the needs of all boaters if we are to preserve support for residential boating.

The RBOA has responded with the following points, aimed at producing a simpler and
more transparent licensing system which encourages responsible residential boating,
whether based at a home mooring or cruising continuously.
RBOA recommends that:
• All craft be licensed/charged on a footprint scale rather than the present length
only system – footprint to be defined by overall maximum craft length multiplied
by overall maximum craft width, excluding removable fenders. A clear scale of
craft sizes/licence pricing should continue to be published.
This fairer system would recognise the additional demands and restrictions
that larger craft often place on the system, and impact on other users of the
• A single craft licence be introduced to cover all CRT navigable waters and craft,
with all relevant Terms & Conditions.
Easy to understand and administer.
• A clearly defined system of price adjustments (surcharges and/or discounts) to the
base licence fee be introduced to cater for charging of specific craft types/user
groups – e.g. commercial craft, historic boats, trading boats, unpowered craft, etc.
“Rivers Only “use could similarly be catered for if desirable or legally necessary, as
could short term licences covering three or six month periods (only) and the
“Explorer” concession for trailable craft only.
Highly transparent to CRT customers and easy for CRT to administer and
financially account for.
• Prompt payment discounts be retained at current levels.
Would support CRT cash flow and encourage customer good will, compliance
and loyalty.
• Hard copy licences be issued to all craft, each licence containing an identifiable
“tracker chip”. Non-display and/or tampering with the “chip” to be clearly defined
as a material breach of licence conditions.
This would reduce the need and cost of CRT hands on data checking and, most
importantly, would aid location of boats/boaters in cases of emergency – e.g.
health and/or safety incidents.
• Craft licensed without home moorings be financially incentivised to increase
cruising distances and ranges.
Compliant continuously cruising craft should not be penalised, acknowledging
the fact that they are important to the the system, bringing colour, community
and added security to the network all year round, particularly when some
other craft are static. The charging regime should be of sufficient substance
to discourage the practice commonly known as “bridge hopping”.
• No craft without a home mooring base should be licensed for use for hire or rental
of any kind.
Professional holiday/hire boat operators must be required to have in place
appropriate boat safety certification, maintenance schedules, insurance,
training and hand-over procedures.
• Considering CRT’s advice that this licensing review is intended to be cost neutral
overall, there are likely to be winners and losers as far as licence fees are
concerned. Should new licensing charges create substantially increased fees being
levied on any existing craft; those increases ought to be phased in, perhaps over
three years.
CRT should be mindful of how such changes might impact upon existing boater
finances and personal circumstances.
RBOA acknowledges the upsurge in numbers of people choosing to live afloat, often with
no access to suitable home moorings. Many of those would opt to live on formal moorings
if sufficient were made available. Provided services are within reasonable cruising range,
moorings do not have to be fully serviced to make them eligible for residential use.
RBOA urges CRT to increase its efforts in securing additional moorings by whatever means
are at its disposal – conversion of suitable CRT water’s edge, liaison with local authorities,
liaison with commercial operators and developers and so on.
An increase in availability of suitable moorings for residential or part residential use
should be paramount if the present growing congestion on our inland waterways is to be
As for existing customers without home moorings who fail to comply with CRT’s guidance
for licence compliance, RBOA would prefer to see CRT helping these owners find suitable
moorings, rather than driving them off the water.
The Residential Boat Owners’ Association is the only voluntary organisation dedicated
to promoting and protecting the rights of responsible live-aboard residents, however
and wherever such lifestyle is legally undertaken.
RBOA – March 2017