About the BSS


In 1980 British Waterways (BW) introduced the Hire Boat Construction Standards to ensure that all hire boat systems were installed to a satisfactory standard. Compliance was mandatory as part of the BW licensing requirements. Privately owned craft under construction were also encouraged to follow these standards.

1990 saw the introduction of the Certificate of Compliance, this updated and replaced the Hire Boat Construction Standards. Compliance for hire boats was still mandatory as part of the BW licensing requirements. Once again privately owned craft were encouraged to meet the compliance requirements; as an incentive boats deemed to be compliant were given a 10% discount on their annual BW cruising licence. British Waterways approved Marine Surveyors carried out the Compliance examinations and issued a certificate.

In 1996 the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) was introduced, all hire craft and privately owned craft were now subject to the mandatory compliance checks as part of British Waterways licensing requirements. As the number of BW approved Marine Surveyors was only approximately 100 in number, and to help cope with the extra demand to ensure that all craft could be examined for compliance, the BSS office started run BSS examiner training courses in the early summer of 1996.


To help minimise the risk of pollution, fire, and explosion on inland waterways craft; a set of essential requirements were introduced. These include the correct installation criteria for inland waterways craft systems such as inboard/outboard engines, electrical installations, fire prevention, gas systems, fuel burning appliances, ventilation etc.

About the Boat Safety Scheme

The BSS was jointly established in 1996 by the Environment Agency and British Waterways to promote safety on the inland waterways in respect of boats, their installations and components. Meeting these safety standards in order to obtain a navigation licence became a requirement soon afterwards. To date, more than 45,000 powered craft have successfully met these requirements.

Who Manages the BSS?

Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), the Environment Agency and the Broads Authority jointly own the Boat Safety Scheme. It’s administered through the Boat Safety Scheme office, where technical officers prepare reports on various safety items, monitor trends within safety legislation and work closely with other safety-related organisations. They also provide an information service to the boating public and BSS examiners.

Although Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency take ultimate responsibility for the management and decision-making processes within the Scheme, input is actively sought from other navigation authorities, boating user groups, trade and professional bodies and other regulatory organisations.

The Boat Safety Scheme has been endorsed by the majority of UK navigation authorities.