Mystery Thames Boat-Owner Slapped with £1,400 Fine

A Reading-based boat-owner has been convicted and fined for failing to register his boat for use on the River Thames.

Environment Agency officers discovered an unnamed boat moored opposite Reading Marine Services during routine checks in August last year.

As the boat was unmarked, it was impossible to carry out a check on the National Licensing System (NLS), the database containing the details of all the vessels registered on the non-tidal Thames. Warning notices were affixed to the boat requiring the owner to notify the Environment Agency with personal details, a valid registration and insurance within 28 days.

No correspondence was received, but in September, the Environment Agency was given intelligence that the vessel was called The Wee Lamb and belonged to Michael Toner, of Oxford Road, in Reading. The NLS showed the vessel to be unregistered, a situation that continued through to December.

Reading magistrates' court was told that Toner had skipped the annual £280.04 registration fee, determined by the length and width of the boat. Including costs and compensation, he was required to pay a total of £1,399.04.

Colin Chiverton, environment manager at the Environment Agency in the Thames Valley, said:

Toner operated an unmarked vessel - you can't do that with a car and the same rules apply with a boat. He had from August to December to make things right, though we received no correspondence at all. We're delighted with this fine, which sends a clear warning to all unregistered boat owners - it's just not worth the risk.

If you have an unregistered boat on the Thames, you should know that our enforcement teams are already out patrolling the river, checking for valid registrations.

Renewal invitation letters for 2024 registrations were sent in the winter to everyone that registered their boat last year. The Environment Agency's approach to non-registration has changed for this season - once a summons has been issued, it won't stop court proceedings, even if the boat owner pays their registration fee.

Similar to excise duty for road vehicles, boat registration fees allow the Environment Agency to manage and maintain more than 600 miles of inland waterways across England, keeping them open and safe for thousands of boaters.

Michael Toner did not attend the hearing in Reading magistrates' court on 15 March 2024 with regard to breaching the Environment Agency (Inland Waterways) Order 2010. He was fined £600 with a victim surcharge of £240. The costs were £270 and the outstanding boat registration fee was £280.04 for 1 January to 31 December 2023.


  • Owners of powered or non-powered boats, including paddleboards, must register their boats annually with the Environment Agency for use on the non-tidal River Thames.
  • Boat registration on the Thames starts on 1 January every year. Any boats found on the water after that date, without having registered, may be liable to a fine.
  • On 31 August 2023, during a river-wide census, Environment Agency officers recorded the locations of 11,310 boats on the river.
  • Boats can be registered by calling 03708 506 506 or going to River Thames: boat registration and application forms - GOV.UK (
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