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Putting a Boat in the Water
What do you have to do if you want to put a boat on the inland waterways or Ireland?
We can't answer for every lake and river in Ireland, but we cover below the main cruising waterways in areas where IWAI has branches. This page deals with registration or licensing of the boat itself --- there is no requirement for the skipper to hold a licence --- and we have a separate page giving the charges to be paid (where appropriate).
Before we start, here are three important points:
Additionally, be aware that there are national regulations and potentially local or water-specific bye-laws. This page does not list all of these - however we have listed some. It is your responsibility as a boat owner to be aware of the regulations that apply.
For starters check out the Merchant Shipping (pleasure craft) (lifejackets and operation) (safety) Regulations 2004. These regulations contain national provisions governing the safe use of personal watercraft, fast power craft and other mechanically propelled pleasure craft. These include provisions relating to age restrictions, the carriage and use of lifejackets and restrictions on the use of alcohol and drugs.
See also our guide to choosing a lifejacket.
Lower Bann (i.e. from L Neagh at Toome to Coleraine Harbour Commissioners at The Cutts): a boat becomes a vessel once it has more than 10hp. Boats do not need to be registered; vessels do.
Registration (free) is from local district councils, using the same
numbering system as on the Erne, so boats can be used on the Erne without
further formalities. This also allows them to operate on the Shannon.
Barrow, Barrow Line, Grand Canal and Royal Canal
No distinction between boats and vessels: permit is required for everything that floats, even if it doesn't use locks. Boats have two options for using these waters. The first option is an annual licence covering both passage and moorings: this covers all fees, including locks, for all those waterways. Alternatively, you can pay a monthly mooring fee plus a small charge per lock: the total due has to be paid in advance for the entire length of the journey. It is not clear whether the charge is in practice levied on vessels that don't use locks. Canal permits are available from Waterways Ireland at Ashtowngate, Ringsend, Lowtown, Tullamore and Shannon Harbour. Note that one permit covers all these waters.
For the Royal and Grand Canal, theCanal Act 1986, Canal Act 1986 Bye-Laws 1988, The Merchant Shipping (Mechanically Propelled Pleasure Craft) (Safety) Regulations, 2001apply.
Navigation authority is the Corrib Navigation Trustees. No registration or fees, but a distinct shortage of moorings means that only boats that can be launched and recovered (with suitable precautions against the spread of zebra mussels) are likely to be suitable.
As for Bann above, but registration number is issued by the Warden at Portora, near Enniskillen. The one lock, at Portora, is free. Register with The Warden's Office, Castle Lane, Portora, Enniskillen BT74 5GH, tel (028) 6632 2836. Alternatively, download the appropriate registration form from Waterways Ireland. Shannon registration is accepted on the Erne and vice versa.
As for Erne, but not yet implemented.
Belongs to the Shaftesbury estate. No registration required. No navigation authority except in the vicinity of certain harbours. No charges.
As for Erne, but not yet implemented.
A vessel that is not a boat (i.e. is not open or has an engine over 15hp) must be registered and must comply with the bye-laws. There is no charge. Register with The Inspector of Navigation, The Docks, Athlone, Co Westmeath. Tel +353 (0)9064 94232 . Alternatively, download the appropriate registration form from Waterways Ireland. If you buy a registered boat, you have to return the registration "disc" and re-register the boat. If a boat is registered on another inland waterways register, it is deemed to be registered on the Shannon: that covers, for example, boats from the Erne or from the English canals. There is a charge for passing through locks and fixed bridges. Boats (as opposed to vessels) do not need to be registered.
The following acts are relevant:
Additional town and county bye-laws may also apply.
A boat should comply with the SHANNON NAVIGATION (CONSTRUCTION OF VESSELS) BYE-LAWS, 1992. This a straightforward piece of legislation covering such things as requirements for Anchors, mooring lines and fenders, Life saving equipment, engines and fuel tanks, Fire extinguishers and Cooking and heating appliances.
No separate registration: boats should be registered for either Shannon or Erne. Smart card used to operate locks.
No registration, no navigation authority (except in Wexford Harbour), no charges.
On the Shannon, the Erne and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, a boat-owner must
have a place to keep a boat. For most people, that means a place in a private
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