Press release

Boaters told to pay River Thames registration fees or risk fine

Surrey man fined for failing to register his boat on the River Thames. Boat registration fees help keep the Thames safe and navigable for boaters.

Tom Rhima's boat, the larger one shown here, was found to be unregistered for three months in summer 2023

A boat owner has been fined and must pay compensation for failing to register his boat on the River Thames, following a successful prosecution by the Environment Agency.

All boats kept or used on the non-tidal Thames must be registered annually, or risk prosecution and a fine. Boat registration fees contribute to the Environment Agency maintaining 600 miles of navigable rivers, locks and weirs across England – mainly on the River Thames, the country’s largest river.

Colin Chiverton, an environment manager at the Environment Agency, said:

Anyone who uses the River Thames for boating should expect to contribute towards the upkeep of the river, and we will always seek to recover unpaid boat registration fees.

The defendant had ample opportunity to pay, but unfortunately we were left with no choice but to take the matter to court.

Tom Rhima, of Ardrossan Gardens, Worcester Park, in Surrey, was charged with failure to register a vessel under the Environment Agency Inland Waterways Order 2010 and failure to obey direction to unmoor under byelaw 58 of the Thames Navigation Licensing and General Byelaws 1993. He appeared at Staines magistrates’ court on 4 June 2024, where he pleaded guilty to both charges.

Environment Agency waterways enforcement officers were checking boat registrations at River Thames moorings at West Molesey in July last year, where they found the vessel, HUI, moored without registration details on visible display.

On checking the Environment Agency’s national licensing system, the officers found that the boat’s annual registration fees had not been paid. As no-one was on board, the officer fixed a notice of the offence to a window of the boat’s cabin.

On three more occasions in July, August and September 2023, Environment Agency officers visited the boat, each time serving enforcement notices. On each occasion there was evidence of people on board who were not the owners and who, after the first visit, refused to engage with officers.

On two occasions, the Environment Agency officers were accompanied by Surrey Fire and Rescue officers, who served prohibition notices against the vessel due to safety concerns, and taped off the gangway.

Environment Agency officers tracked down Rhima to his residential address and spoke with him there on 5 August 2023. He claimed to have only visited his boat once, when handing over money for its purchase to its previous owner in 2022. He further claimed to have no knowledge of anyone on board or of the enforcement notices.

In court, the defendant also claimed that the previous owner had told him that HUI came with mooring rights and was registered – neither of which was the case.

Despite visits from Environment Agency officers to the defendant’s home in August and September 2023, Rhima continued to make no attempt to register HUI, move it from its location as directed, or to contact the Environment Agency.

He was fined £50 for the registration offence and £50 for the byelaw offence, with a victim surcharge of £40. Rhima was further ordered to pay £1,893.60 compensation to the Environment Agency. This is equal to the annual boat registration fee that should have been paid for the period 1 January to 31 December 2023.

Owners of all types of boats, including paddleboards, must register their boats with the Environment Agency for use on the non-tidal River Thames, and pay the relevant registration fees.

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.

It is quick and easy to register a boat, by calling 03708 506 506 or visiting  

As well as fees contributing to the upkeep of the river, boat registration helps to ensure that boats are maintained to a safe standard and are insured.

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Published 10 July 2024