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Boat & boatmen licences

The Council operates a licensing scheme for pleasure boats to operate in the Torridge estuary.

Boat, ship, or ferry icon


The Torridge Estuary is defined as waters within a line bearing 200 degrees from the lighthouse at Crow Point to the shore at Skern Point.  Vessels are licensed  in accordance with the MCA Inland Waters Small Passenger Boat Code and the 'Recommendations and Regulations Affecting the Licensing and Operation of Small Craft' issued by the South West Regional Standing Committee on Safety of Small Craft.

The Council can license vessels which carry up to 12 passengers.  If your vessel has capacity for more than 12 passengers, you will need to apply to the Maritime and Coastguard agency for a licence.

The Council will attach conditions to Licences.


The Council is undertaking a review of its Small Commercial Vessel Licensing Policy and is inviting any comments in respect of the proposed amendments and any other aspects of the Policy

The revised policy can be viewed  here (PDF) [326KB]

The consultation form can be downloaded  here (gi.ui.mediatype.word2010) [14KB]

If you wish to make comments directly please email: and put "Licensing Policy Review" in the subject heading.

The consultation is open until Friday 20 January 2023.

Apply for a boat licence

If you wish to apply for a Pleasure Boat Licence, your vessel will require inspection by a qualified marine surveyor or other person authorised by the Council to ensure it is seaworthy. The surveyor/authorised person will make a charge for this.  You will also need to have minimum Public Liability insurance cover of £3,000,000.

To apply you will need to:

Apply now
on the GOV.UK website

You can also renew an existing boat licence.

If you don't want to apply online, you can  download an application form (PDF) [132KB]  to complete, and send it back to us.

Apply for a boatman's licence

If you wish to skipper a vessel licensed by the Council, you will need to submit a separate application for a Boatman's Licence.  You will be required to undergo a test of your competence as a boatman and have a medical examination with your GP.  Your GP will make a charge for this.

To apply, you will need to:

Apply for an operator licence

Operator licences cover a particular category of vessel and will apply to those offering a variety of marine pursuits and will cover self-drive hire businesses as well as the hire of canoes, pedaloes, jet skis, sailboards etc. 

The operator licence is currently unavailable online.

Contact us

If you have any queries, or require help with your application, please contact the Licensing Team.

  • email:
  • phone: 01237 428700
  • post: Licensing Team, Torridge District Council, Riverbank House, Bideford EX39 2QG

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