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15 April 2023

Boat Documentation Advice

When you become a boat owner, there’s more to it than just navigating the open waters. Proper boat documentation is a crucial aspect of boat ownership, ensuring you comply with legal requirements and protect your investment. In this article, we’ll explore essential boat documentation advice to help you set sail smoothly and navigate the waters with confidence.

Do I Need a Boat Licence?

You do need a licence, but not in quite the same way as you need a driving licence to drive a car. There is no “boating licence” for UK waters. Although, an appropriate training course is essential to make sure you are safe and get the most out of your boating experience.

There are, however, certain licences that will be required, especially if your boat is kept and used on inland waterways.

In this case, you will need a licence before you can take to the canals, rivers and waterways around the UK. This can be acquired from either the Canal and River Trust, Environment Agency or, in the case of the Norfolk Broads, the Broads Authority.

You will need to buy a licence for each different waterway you plan to use, which pays for upkeep and maintenance.

A boat safety certificate, which lasts for four years, is also required.

The RYA SRC (Short Range Certificate) is a legal requirement for anyone operating a marine VHF radio, while a Ships Radio Licence is required to cover the radio equipment being used on the vessel.

If you are planning on boating in European waters, the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is required by law.

Is Boat Insurance Compulsory?

While there is no legal requirement in the UK for boat insurance, almost every marina, mooring or inland waterway requires boat owners to have a minimum of third-party cover.

For example, the Broads Authority requires a minimum third-party liability cover of £2m for all powered craft, with evidence required before you can buy your annual licence or toll.

It’s also sensible to more comprehensively insure one of the biggest purchases you are ever likely to make. We work closely with leading insurers, Navigators and General to provide first class marine insurance.

Do I Need a Licence to Operate a Radio?

The RYA Short Range Certificate is the minimum legal requirement for anyone operating a fixed or handheld marine VHF radio with Digital Selective Calling (DSC).

Our RYA instructor offers this classroom-based training, which includes a short test paper.

A Ship Radio Licence is required for those sailing further out to sea and operating longer-range radios, satellite communication equipment, EPIRBs and SARTS.

Is There a Registration Document Like a Car’s?

There is no equivalent of a car’s V5 document, which is a compulsory record of the registered keeper of every vehicle.

However, the bill of sale acts as the boat’s title document and, in an ideal world, there will be a paper trail back to the original builder’s certificate.

Older boats may well be missing some of this documentation, but you should ensure that the most recent owner – the seller of the boat – can provide a bill of sale showing that they do own the boat and have legal title to sell it. Other documentation, such as receipts for moorings, maintenance, and other incidentals, would further support their ownership over a period.

Some boats may be registered on the UK Ship Register, or Small Ships Register, which is the closest thing to a V5 in the boating world as owners must have five years’ worth of original title documents.

Will I Need a Boat Survey?

Many insurers require a survey as a condition of providing cover and, given the potentially high value of your purchase, we always recommend a full inspection for our brokerage boats.

These are boats that are effectively private sales from one individual to another, with NYA acting as an intermediary, like an estate agent. As such, there is no warranty provided by the broker.

Just like when buying a house, a survey will highlight any issues that either need addressing right away or will need attention at some point in the near future.

As well as providing you with peace of mind, a survey can help you negotiate a better price if it highlights issues that need addressing – just like when you buy a house.

Be aware that there are different types of survey: an insurance survey will only look at the potential risks for the insurer, while a finance survey will primarily assess the overall condition and value of the boat.

The most comprehensive survey is a full condition or pre-purchase survey, which will assess the structural integrity, the engine and mechanicals, safety systems through to cosmetic details.

Don’t rely on an old survey, which can only assess the condition of the boat on the day it was carried out. We can help you find a qualified marine surveyor.

How Do I Ensure VAT Has Been Paid On The Boat?

All privately-owned boats used in the EU by EU residents must be VAT paid. You may also be required to show evidence of this if you travel to an EU country.

When you buy a boat, the vendor should be able to provide evidence that VAT has been paid, usually in the form of the original VAT invoice from when it was first sold within the EU.

Vessels built before 1985 are deemed to be VAT paid if they were in the EU in December 31, 1992, if evidence of both dates can be shown, for example with a builder’s certificate and evidence of mooring.

Proper boat documentation not only keeps you on the right side of the law but also protects your investment and ensures a smooth sailing experience. Taking the time to understand and comply with these documentation requirements is an essential part of responsible boat ownership.

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