Boatmaster’s licence

Business: Licences

    Master’s licence for commercial use of passenger and non-passenger vessels in category A,B,C,D waters and limited coastal areas

    You must be qualified under the boatmasters’ licence (BML) regulations if you’re operating commercially in categorised waters and limited coastal areas.

    Types of BMLs

    You’ll need either a national or restricted area licence if you’re in charge of a passenger carrying or non-passenger carrying vessel.

    National licence

    You can get one of 2 types of national licence:

    • Tier 1 Level 1 (T1L1) – for all category A, B and non-linked C waters (non tidal)
    • Tier 1 Level 2 (T1L2) – for all UK inland waterways (categories A – D) and limited coastal area (tidal)

    Restricted area licence

    You can get a Tier 2 (T2) licence for a specified area, which may be category A, B or non-linked C waters (non-tidal).

    If your vessel carries no more than 12 passengers or is less than 24 metres in length, it’s a ‘small commercial vessel’. You can hold an alternative qualification to the BML.


    BML regulations apply to masters operating on category A – D waters and ‘limited’ coastal areas ie coastal areas no more than 3 miles from land and 15 miles from the point of departure.

    Commercial vessels operating in inland waterways or in limited coastal areas can be:

    • passenger ships – carrying more than 12 passengers – class IV, V, VI or VI(A)
    • non-passenger vessels over 24 metres long – class IX(A) or IX(A)(T)

    Non-passenger vessels can include:

    • cargo vessels
    • tankers
    • tugs and pusher craft for cargo operations
    • workboats
    • dredgers


    You don’t need a boatmasters’ licence if:

    • your vessel operates under the conditions outlined in ‘Boatmasters’ licence regulations: general exemption’ (PDF, 880KB)
    • you’re the named master on BML Vessel Exemptions
    • you have a Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) (Category D waters) Certificate of Competency (Masters II/3) on vessels less than 500 tonnes operating in Category C and D waters
    • you have a STCW Inshore Tug Certificate of Competency (Master)
    • you’re a master of a vessel certificated under the Small Commercial Vessels (SCV) Code holding an appropriate SCV qualification

    How to apply

    Send the following papers, with the relevant fee (shown on the application form), to your local Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) marine office:

    You must also meet the qualifying service time and minimum age requirements.

    Once your application has been assessed, your local MCA marine office will contact you to set a date for:

    • an oral assessment of your ‘underpinning’ knowledge covered by the BML syllabuses
    • a practical test of your boat handling

    You must pass both of these tests to get a boatmasters’ licence. Licences are usually issued for a period of 5 years.

    Further information

    Full details about the regulations and getting a licence can be found at the One stop BML shop or you can call the hotline.

    Boatmasters’ licence hotline
    Telephone: 029 2044 8844

    Boatmaster's licence for operating commercially in categorised waters and limited coastal areas.