Department for Transport
 
 

Boatmasters' Licences - One Stop BML Shop

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Who needs a Boatmasters' Licence (BML)?
  3. When is a BML not required?
  4. What qualifications are accepted for masters of commercial vessels less than 24m carrying no more than 12 passengers?
  5. Types of BMLs
  6. How do I apply for a BML?  (Qualification Requirements)
  7. Specialist Operation Requirements
  8. Local Knowledge Requirements
  9. Qualifying Service Time and Minimum Age Requirements
  10. Medical Requirements
  11. Revalidation Requirements for BMLs
  12. Links for more Information

For further information please contact your local MCA Marine Office.  To locate the one nearest to you, please click here

1.  Introduction

“The Merchant Shipping (Inland Waterway and Limited Coastal Operations) (Boatmasters' Qualifications and Hours of Work) Regulations 2006” came into force in January 2007. They replaced the 1993 regulations and introduced new requirements for those operating commercial vessels (passenger and non-passenger) on inland waterways and limited coastal areas.  

2.  Who needs a Boatmasters’ Licence (BML)?

All masters operating commercially in categorised waters and limited coastal areas must be qualified under the BML Regulations.

This includes masters of the following vessels:

Passenger Carrying

  • Class IV – Vessels engaged only on voyages in waters of category A, B, C or D.
  • Class V – Vessels engaged only on voyages in waters of category A, B or C.
  • Class VI – Vessels carrying not more than 250 passengers engaged on voyages to sea or in waters of Category A, B, C or D, in favourable weather and during restricted periods, in the course of which the vessels are at no time more than 15 miles (exclusive of waters of category A, B C or D) from their point of departure or more than 3 miles from land.
  • Class VI(A) – Vessels carrying no more than 50 passengers engaged on voyages over a distance of not more than 6 miles to or from isolated communities on the islands or coast of the United Kingdom and in the course of which they are never more than 3 miles from land.

Non-Passenger Carrying

  • Class IX(A) – Vessels other than passenger ships and tankers which do not proceed to sea.
  • Class IX(A)(T) – Tankers which do not proceed to sea.

The BML Regulations apply to masters operating on Category A – D waters and limited coastal areas.  

Information on categorised waters can be found in MSN 1827 ‘Categorisation of Waters’

Limited Coastal Area is defined as “no more than 3 miles from land and 15 miles from a point of departure”.

3.  When is a BML not required?

  • Crew
  • Vessels operating under the conditions outlined in MIN457 ‘Boatmasters’ Licence Regulations: General Exemption’
  • Masters holding an STCW (Category D waters) Certificate of Competency (Masters II/3) on vessels than 500 tonnes operating in Category C and D waters
  • Masters of inshore tugs holding an STCW Inshore Tug Certificate of Competency (Master)
  • Masters of vessels certificated under the Small Commercial Vessels (SCV) Code holding an appropriate SCV qualification (as listed in Annex 3 of MGN 280)
  • Masters of commercial vessels less than 24m carrying no more than 12 passengers holiding an accepted qualification (please refer to section 4)
  • Masters named on BML Vessel Exemptions (please refer to section 5)
  • Masters holding a Boatmasters' Certificate issued under Council Directive 96/50/EC *
  • Masters holding a Rhine navigation licence *

       * Holders of these quaifications are still subject to local knowledge requirements

4.  What qualifications are accepted for masters of commercial vessels less than 24m which carry no more than 12 passengers?

Certificate Valid for Categories of Waters
Boatman’s licence issued by a Competent Navigation Authority Areas specified in the licence
British Waterways Helmsman Certificate (or older certificates titled ‘British Waterways Boatman Certificate’) A and B only, as specified in the licence
Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Certificate of Boat Management A only
International Yachtmaster Training Master of Yachts 200 tons (Coastal) A, B, C & D
National Community Boats Association Certificate in Community Boat Management A and B only
RYA/MCA Coastal Skipper Certificate with commercial endorsement and 12 month relevant experience A, B, C & D
RYA/MCA Day Skipper Certificate with commercial endorsement and 12 month relevant experience A, B, C & D
RYA/MCA Advanced Powerboat CoC with commercial endorsement and 12 month relevant experience A, B, C & D
RYA/MCA Powerboat Level 2 with commercial endorsement and 12 month relevant experience A, B, C & D
RYA/MCA Powerboat Level 2 without commercial endorsement and 12 month relevant experience A and B only
RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate A and B only

5.  Types of BMLs

There are three types of BMLs divided into National and Restricted Area (local) Licences:

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

  • Tier 2 (T2) – for a specified area which may be Category A, B or non-linked C waters [non-tidal]

The MCA is currently in the process of amending the BML Regulations.  Once these amendments come into force there will be an additional licence: Tier 2 Level 2 (T2L2) for a specified area which may be Category C and/or D waters, and/or limited coastal area and where applicable adjacent Categories A and/or B waters [tidal].  To access the proposed syllabus for the new licence, please click here.

If you wish to operate in a restricted tidal area before the amended Regulations are introduced please contact your local Marine Office, who will provide you with information about how to apply for a vessel exemption.  For contact details please click here

6.  How do I apply for a BML?  (Qualification Requirements)

To qualify for a BML you will need to submit the following documents to your local Marine Office:

  • an application form  MSF 4364
  • evidence of completing the three basic safety courses – personal survival, first aid and fire safety MCA approved BML Short Courses
  • a medical certificate Seafarer Information (see section 10 for further information)
  • a Task Record Book MSF 4367
  • work record or other evidence of time served – Tier 1 applicants only MSF 4366
  • meet minimum age requirements*
  • any Pilotage Exemption Certificates (PEC) (if held)

* Please refer to section 10 for service time and age requirements

Once your application has been assessed, your local Marine Office will contact you to set a date for:

  • an oral assessment on underpinning knowledge BML Syllabuses
  • a practical boat handling assessment

For masters that were working prior to the introduction of the BML Regulations in January 2007 wishing to convert their existing Grade 1, 2 or 3 BMLs into a new style BML, please use MSF 4362.  For further information please see Frequently Asked Quaestions, or contact your loal Marine Office.

If you have further queries please refer to:

Frequently asked Questions and Answers

Boatmasters’ Licence Hotline: 029 2044 8844    Email: Seafarers_Registry@mcga.gov.uk

7.  Specialist Operation Requirements

If you hold a Tier 1 BML you may need to obtain one or more of the following endorsements in addition to the generic licence:

  • Passenger Operations – more than 12 but no more than 250 passengers
  • Large Passenger Vessel – more than 250 passengers
  • Cargo – dry cargoes in bulk, packaged dangerous goods, roll-on/roll-off operations
  • Oil Cargoes – Oil and Chemical Cargoes in bulk
  • Dredging
  • Towing and Pushing
  • Fast Craft – for a specific type of vessel and route
  • Radar

Qualifying Service Time Requirements

The generic licence allows the master to carry up to 12 passengers without an endorsement.

For more information on endorsement requirements, please refer to MSN 1808 ‘The Merchant Shipping (Inland Waterways and Limited Coastal Operations) (Boatmasters’ Qualifications and Hours of Work) Regulations 2006 – Structure and Requirements’ or section 10

8.  Local Knowledge Requirements

If you hold a BML you should be aware of and adhere to:

  • Relevant local byelaws
  • Local navigational requirements
  • Restrictions of local harbour authorities or navigational authorities

There are certain waters for which you require an additional local knowledge endorsement.  It is considered that a boatmasters’ generic skills are not sufficient to navigate these waters safely and therefore specific local knowledge of these waters is required.  There areas are:

Bristol Portthe River Avon from Ashton Swing Bridge to the mouth of the Avon and King Road from Potishead Point to the port limits to the North and West.

Caernafon and Menai Straitfrom the Southern Limit specified in the Menai Strait Pilotage District Pilotage Directions, that is an imaginary line joining positions 5309.6’N 00425.7’W (Malltraeth Bay); 5305.0’N 00432.15’W (Caernafon Bay) and 5300.55’N 00423.58’W (afon Hen, Clynnog) to a line drawn between Bangor Pier and Garth-y-Don.

Dee Conservancyfrom an imaginary straight line connecting Point of Ayr (National Grid reference point SJ 12268519) and Hilbre Point (National Grid reference point SJ 20298843) to the Air-Bus Load-Out Facility at Broughton.

Dover Harbourthe harbour and the sea within a distance of one mile from the seaward limits to the harbour.

Foweythe upper estuary, north of Upper Carne Point.

Gloucester Harbourthe Severn estuary from the harbour limits at Goldcliff to the weirs at Maisemore, Lanthony (Gloucester) on the tidal River Severn.

Port of Liverpoolthe River Mersey from a straight line drawn between the Perch Rock Lighthouse and Gladstone River Entrance West Bullnose, south to a straight line drawn between the East Bullnose of Eastham 50’ Lock and the West Bullnose of Stalbridge (Garston) Lock.

Port of Londonthe River Thames from Putney Bridge to the eastern limit of the Thames Barrier Control Zone (currently Margaretness).

Padstow Harbourthe waters within a line joining Stepper Point, Gulland Rock and Pentire Point.

Portsmouth Harbourthe waters between No. 4 Bar Buoy and a line drawn from No. 98 Pile to Whale Island.

Isles of Scillythe waters within a line drawn from Bishop Rock Lighthouse to Scilly Rock, Round Island, White Island, Hanjague and around the South East of St. Mary’s.

Teignmouththe waters from Ness Point to 100 yards East of Den Lighthouse.

For more information please refer to MGN 334 ‘New National Boatmasters’ Licence – Local Information and Local Knowledge’ or section 10 for QST requirements.

9.  Qualifying Service Time (QST) and Minimum Age Requirements

Tier 1 Licences (separate generic + endorsements where appropriate)

Generic Licence

Minimum

Age

Qualifying

Service Time

Minimum

Qualifying Period

Tier 1 Level 1

18

           120 days            

12 months

Tier 1 Level 2

18

240 days

24 months

Specialist Operations Endorsement
General Passenger (Cat A and B Waters only)

21

60 days

6 months

General Passenger (Cat C and D waters and limited Coastal Area)

21

120 days

12 months

Large Passenger Vessel

22

60 days

6 months

Towing and Pushing (Cat A and B waters only)

21

60 days

6 months

Towing and Pushing (Cat C and D waters)

21

120 days

12 months

Cargo

18

60 days

6 months

Oil and Chemical Cargo

18

60 days

6 months

Dredging

18

60 days

6 months

Fast Craft

21

see note 1

see note 1

Radar

18

n/a

n/a

Local Knowledge Endorsement
Port of London

n/a

60 days

6 months

Padstow Harbour

n/a

see note 2

see note 2

Portsmouth Harbour

n/a

60 days

6 months

Isles of Scilly

n/a

60 days

6 months

Tier 2 Licence (area and operation is integral to the licence)

Generic Licence

Minimum

Age

Qualifying

Service Time

Minimum

Qualifying Period

Passenger:  Carrying no more than 100                                           

18

          see note 1           

see note 1

Passenger:  Carrying no more than 250

20

see note 1

see note 1

Passenger:  Carrying more than 250

21

see note 1

see note 1

Non-Passenger Operations

18

see note 1

see note 1

Note 1:    Qualifying Service Time and Minimum Qualifying Period is at the surveyor's discretion at your local Marine Office

Note 2:    6 outward and inward voyages

10.  Medical Requirements

In addition to a BML masters must also hold a valid medical certificate to operate commercially in categorised waters and limited coastal areas.

One of the following medical certificates must be held:

  • ML5 – for masters working on categorised waters
  • ENG1 – for masters of Class VI and VI(A) vessels proceeding to sea within 3/15 limits

For more information on either of these two certificates please contact the Medical Administration Team on: +44 (0) 2380 329 380

Submitting Evidence of Medical Fitness

New Entrants:  must submit a valid medical certificate with their application for a BML.

Revalidation: masters over 45 must submit a valid medical certificate with their revalidation application.

Masters of small passenger vessels (defined as carrying 12 or less passengers) and/or small commercial vessel (defined as less than 24 metres length) using an alternative qualification in lieu of a BML (see section 3); must comply with the medical requirements of the alternative qualification.  In most cases, one of the above or below certificates should be held:

  • Civil Aviation Commercial Pilot’s Licence*
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Diving Medical Certificate*
  • Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Group 2 Driver’s Licence*

*Subject to the same conditions as currently stated in the Inland Waterways Small Passenger Boat (IWSPB) Code.

11.  Revalidation Requirements for BMLs

All BMLs are revalidated on the basis of service time.

Type of BML

Qualifying Service Time

Minimum Qualifying Period

Tier 1

                   120 days                   

5 years

Tier 2

50 days

5 years

Please note:  

  1. QST must be obtained during the period of 5 years ending on the date of expiry of your existing licence (i.e. during the validity of your current licence)
  2. where a licence has lapsed (i.e. submitted for revalidation after the expiry date), it will not be revalidated on service time alone.  Masters will be required to retake both the oral and practical assessment.

To revalidate your existing BML please send the following to The Registry of Shipping and Seaman::

  • Application form  MSF 4365 with accompanying fee
  • Work Record MSF 4366
  • Medical Certificate (where appropriate – see section 11

12.  Links for More Information

M-Notices

  • MSN 1808 – The Merchant Shipping (Inland Waterways and Limited Coastal Operations) (Boatmasters’ Qualifications and Hours of Work) Regulations 2006 – Structure and Requirements
  • MSN 1827 - Categorisation of Waters
  • MGN 333 – The New Boatmaster’s Licence – Guidance on the Application provisions for Existing Masters of Vessels
  • MGN 334 – New National Boatmaster’s Licence – Local Information and Local Knowledge
  • MIN 457 – Boatmasters’ Licence Regulations: General Exemption

Forms

  • MSF 4112 – Seafarer Medical Report Form (ML5) and ML5 Certificate
  • MSF 4362 – Application for a Boatmasters’ Licence – Existing Boatmasters / Masters of Vessels Operating at 31 December 2006
  • MSF 4364 – Application for a Boatmasters’ Licence – New Entrants from 1 January 2007
  • MSF 4365 – Application for the Revalidation of a Boatmasters’ Licence
  • MSF 4366 – Boatmaster’s Licence Work Record – This is the official record of the work activities and experience which enable an individual to hold a Boatmasters’ Licence.  It should be kept up to date, signed and kept safe
  • MSF 4367 – New Boatmasters’ Licence Task Record Book – For operators in Inland Waterways and limited coastal areas
  • MSF 4370 – MCA Boatmasters’ Licence Application for Upgrades and Additions
  • MSF 4374 – Application for a Boatmasters’ Licence Exemption
  • MSF 4390 - Application for a Replacement Boatmasters' Licence

Training Requirements

Other

Please submit any feedback or suggested improvements for this webpage to boatmaster@mcga.gov.uk