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Vessel Licensing

The Port of London Authority (PLA), through powers granted to it by the Port of London Act 1968 (as amended) is responsible for the licensing of inland waterways vessels operating commercially on the tidal Thames.

Vessels operating on the tidal Thames are required to be licensed by the PLA, unless they are certificated by another recognised authority, such as the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, another navigation authority or local authority.

The Port of London Authority’s Vessel Surveying and Licensing teams inspect and licence nearly 800 commercially operated vessels a year, fulfilling the PLA’s statutory licensing duty.

The links below provide additional information about which vessels are subject to licensing and information relating to the standards utilised by the PLA in inspecting and licensing vessels on the Thames.


Vessel Licensing

The Vessel Licensing team work to ensure that vessels operating commercially are appropriately licenced in accordance with the PLA’s statutory licensing duty.

From 1 June 2018, a clearer divide between the licensing and surveying functions is being put in place.  This change impacts vessels with licences expiring from 31 July 2018.

 Under the new process:

  • reminders will go out two months before a licence is due to expire;
  • bookings for vessel surveys will be made directly with the marine surveyors; and
  • applications for licences will be made through the PLA’s Planning and Development Department.

Applications for a vessel licence will only be accepted with an appropriate up-to-date survey certificate. The application form should be completed and submitted with the Certificate of Survey to [email protected].

For modular pontoons, the modular pontoon application form should be completed and submitted with written approval from the surveyor to [email protected].

The application fee must be paid using the PayPal button below before any application will be considered. Please include the name of your vessel in the box provided.

Vessel Name:


Vessel Surveying

Inspections are undertaken by two qualified Marine Surveyors, who work closely with owners and operators to ensure that the required safety, technical and competency standards are met.

Vessels are assessed against the Thames Freight Standard, a nationally recognised technical standard for Inland Waterways non-passenger vessels; and the Inland Waterways Small Passenger Boat Code, as appropriate.

To request a survey, please complete the survey application form and return to [email protected].  The Vessel Survey team will then contact you to discuss further the intended operation of the vessel and arrange for an inspection to the relevant standards.

Our Marine Surveyors are also able to provide services for third parties on commercial vessels which include:

  • New build consultancy services
  • Inland Waterways Certification
  • Insurance surveys

Surveys can be completed anywhere in the UK and Europe, usually within two weeks of receiving instruction.


If you would like to contact Vessel Surveying, you can write to them at:

London River House
Royal Pier Road
DA12 2BG
Tel: +44(0)1474 562200
Fax: +44 (0)1474 562277
e-mail: [email protected]