Boat hire licence

A boat hire licence is required for the use of a vessel, in the course of trade or business, for the purpose of letting it for hire or carrying for reward 12 or fewer passengers, for pleasure, recreational, educational or sporting purposes.

A vessel includes dinghies, yachts, rowing and motorboats,“pedaloes”, punts, single-seat canoes, hovercraft and any other kind of related water craft.


A boat hire licence is not required for:

  • any vessel which carries more than 12 passengers operates more than 3 miles from the shore or which carries 12 passengers or less, more than 15 miles  from its  point  of departure. All of these  types  of  vessel are  regulated  instead  by  the  Department of Transport
  • a licence is not required if a vessel is intended to be used  for continuous  periods  of  24 hours  and it  has  overnight  sleeping accommodation (this will exempt most yacht chartering businesses)
  • Vessels used exclusively for fishing in  non­tidal waters
  • Vessels used in any harbour owned or managed by any other council as harbour authority may require that council’s consent but they do not require a boat hire licence from this council


You must comply with any conditions attached to a licence.

You must be a fit and proper person and not be disqualified from holding a licence.

You must not have had an application refused for the same licence within the 12 months prior to making your application, unless you have had a material change in circumstances.

The vessel must be fit to be let for hire.

The vessel may require to be inspected by an appropriately qualified person, instructed by the Council, prior to any licence being approved or issued.

You will be required to have in place a policy of public liability insurance for the operation of the business. You will be required to produce a certificate issued by a suitably qualified person stating that the vessel is suitably designed, constructed, maintained and equipped and in a safe condition for its intended use, for each vessel to be licensed.

You will also be required to produce a Royal Yachting Association (RYA)/Department of Transport (DOT) Certificate of Competency as a Coastal Skipper or a Boatmaster's Licence issued by the Department of Transport, A Medical Fitness Certificate and an approved Basic Sea Survival Course Certificate for the person that is to be in charge of each vessel licence.

For more guidance on the boat licence view our:

Telling us about any changes

You must notify us in writing of any changes to the details of the Licence Holder or if the types or numbers of vessels change. This information should be submitted, in writing, within one month of the changes taking place.

If the need for the licence becomes redundant, you should surrender the licence to us as soon as possible.

Application fee

An application fee is payable. The fee is currently £281.50. The fee must be paid at the same time the application for the licence is lodged with us. The fee is non-refundable.

The application will not be considered competent until the fee is paid.

You will also be required to cover the costs of inspection of the vessel by a person authorised by us.

You can pay by either:

Unfortunately we are unable to accept payment by BACs, cheques or cash.

How to apply

You can apply for a boat hire licence online on the GOV.UK website however we may require additional information due to the limitations of the online system.

Alternatively you can apply in paper by completing boat hire application form (PDF 225KB). Please send your competed form by email to or by post to, please note physical mail is only checked once a week:

Aberdeenshire Council
Legal and People
Arduthie Road
AB39 2DQ

If you are unable to complete the forms, please call us and we will assist you to apply over the telephone.

Displaying a site notice

At the same time as lodging your application for a licence, you must display the appropriate site notice (PDF 85KB), at the location from which your business is to operate, for a period of 21 days.

Thereafter, you must submit a certificate of compliance (PDF 69KB) to us, stating that the site notice was correctly displayed, or explaining why you were unable to display the site notice.

Failure to provide the necessary information and documentation, or the application fee, will result in the inability to further process the application.

Application process

Full approval will not be granted until the required information and documentation has been provided, examined and deemed satisfactory, and the application has been fully processed.

An inspection of the vessel or vessels by a person authorised by us will be carried out as soon as possible after a valid application has been made.

You are not permitted to operate the business of letting vessels until such time as a boat hire licence has been issued to you.

We will send a copy of your application to Police Scotland, Planning Services, Building Services, the relevant Harbour-Master (our consultees), where appropriate and to the Department of Transport, where appropriate.

In the absence of objections or adverse representations, your licence will be issued to you under delegated authority.

Where objections or adverse representations are made, your application will be referred to the appropriate Committee of Aberdeenshire Council for consideration.

A copy of any licence issued will be sent to our consultees.

We will keep a register of applications in which we will enter the details of the receipt of each application, our final decision and reasons for the decision, the details of the terms of each licence granted and a note of any suspension, variation of the terms, or surrender, of a licence.

Duration of the licence

If granted, your licence will come into effect on the date specified on the licence. Licences are normally granted for 3 years, unless a shorter period is specified.