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Commercial boat licensing

Self drive and pleasure boats

We have to license all craft which carry 12 or fewer passengers, whether they are self driven or have a supplied skipper.

To get a licence you must send us a letter saying you:

  • own a commercial premises, from which you intend to operate
  • are able to use an existing operation's premises (you must include a covering letter on company headed paper stating you have permission)

Once you have fitted the required safety equipment and fulfilled other requirements, return the completed application form to the lake wardens' office. 

The licensing officer will contact our inspector who will visit your premises and inspect all the vessels.  

If satisfied, the inspector will issue licence stickers and the licencing officer will give you the formal licence. 

Boatman's licence

If you wish to hire out or take charge of commercial vessels carrying 12 or fewer passengers you must be a licensed boatman.

Restricted licence

You would need a restricted licence to hire out vessels. It does not include using pleasure craft for passengers. To qualify you must:

  • be over 18
  • demonstrate a knowledge of your company's codes of safe working practice and emergency procedures
  • have a full knowledge of all statutory rules, regulations and byelaws for the waters where the licence is required
  • not have any disease or physical disability which could affect your ability to help hiring the vessel/s

Full licence

If you want to hire out or take charge of pleasure vessels used for passengers you will require a full licence. In addition to the requirements outlined above you would also need to:

  • complete a declaration about your fitness
  • satisfactorily complete a practical boat handling assessment


Licences are valid for either one year or six years. They are not transferable and cannot be backdated.

We may suspend or revoke a licence at any time in the interests of the public.

You can get application forms and advice from the lake wardens office:

Ferry Nab
Bowness on Windermere
Cumbria
LA23 3JH

Telephone: 015394 42753
Email: lake.wardens@southlakeland.gov.uk