Marine Licensing - Northern Ireland

Advice on marine licensing in Northern Ireland

A Marine Licence is required under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Part 4) for activities involving the deposit or removal of a substance or object below the Mean High Water Springs Mark or in any tidal river to the extent of the tidal influence, and up to the boundary of the UK territorial seas. Marine licensing for Northern Irish inshore waters is carried out by the Marine and Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). For offshore waters, marine licensing lies under the jurisdiction of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Inshore Waters

Marine licensing for Northern Irish inshore waters is carried out by the Marine and Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). Types of activity that may require a marine licence include construction and removals (e.g. moorings, pontoons, jetties, marinas, piers, slipways etc.), and dredging and dredged material disposal. More information can be found in DAERA guidance notes.

DAERA have guidance on the process of applying for a marine licence. While there is no statutory timeframe associated with an application, the Marine and Fisheries Division aim to process each application within four months of receiving all relevant documentation. The consultation phase lasts 28 days.

For more information as to whether your activity might need a marine licence, please look on our 'Which activities need a marine licence?' page. 

In order to apply for a marine licence, you may also need to:


Not all activities require a licence however. Some low risk or otherwise well-controlled activities are exempt under the Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011. DAERA also produce further guidance on exemptions.

Exempt activities include:

  • Dredging on behalf of a harbour authority.
  • Harbour and lighthouse authorities do not need a licence to deposit or remove piled or swing moorings or aids to navigation (such as marker buoys).
  • A conservancy, harbour, lighthouse or navigation authority do not need a marine licence to remove anything causing or likely to cause an obstruction or danger to navigation.
  • Deposits of any substance or object in the normal course of navigation do not require a marine licence. This is to allow routine activities such as the deposit of anchors to be carried out without the need for a licence.
  • Launching a vessel.
  • Maintenance of coast protection, drainage and flood defence works.

The marine licensing process

Details of the marine licensing process are available from the DAERA website, and in their ‘overview and process’ guidance note. The guidance note covers the pre-application and application stages, as well as post-consent variations. Further information is available on the DAERA website on fees, forms, and enforcement. A list of guidance notes can also be found on the DAERA marine licensing page. Details of marine licences are available through the Marine Licensing Public Register. The DAERA website also lists contact details for the Marine Strategy and Licensing Branch for further information.

Protected Areas

Any project within or adjacent to a European protected site may need a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). This includes Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Ramsar sites. HRA Screening can be conducted at the pre-application stage to determine whether a project is likely to have a significant effect on the protected site. If the HRA determines the project has the potential to have a Likely Significant Effect (LSE), an Appropriate Assessment (AA) will be required. More information is available from a DAERA guidance note, and the DAERA website.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Some types of project require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Screening can be carried out prior to a marine licence application to determine whether an EIA is required in relation to the proposed works. Where an Environmental Statement (ES) is required, a potential applicant can request a 'scoping opinion' as to the data and information to be included in the ES. More information is available from DAERA guidance notes on the application process and on the EIA process.

Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) protects waters between the Mean Low Water Mark (MLWM) to one nautical mile offshore. You may need to show compliance with the WFD with a marine licence application. More information is available from a DAERA guidance note.

Further Consents

Further consents may be required, particularly when projects extend into the inter-tidal area, or on land, including:

  • Planning permission from Local Council Planning Service.
  • Where a proposed activity may affect an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), assent must be gained jointly from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Marine and Fisheries Division.
  • The Crown Estate require consent for any seabed intrusive works within 12 nautical miles of the coast.
  • Activities involving any discharge into a watercourse or any works in, over or adjacent to a watercourse require consent from the Rivers Agency. Schedule 6 applications are for consents to discharge storm water to a watercourse, construct a bridge across or culvert a watercourse, divert a watercourse, cross under / over a watercourse, or other works adjacent to or affecting a watercourse.
  • A wildlife licence for marine or terrestrial species may be required if there is a risk of disturbance to a protected species.

Offshore Waters

For offshore waters, marine licensing lies under the jurisdiction of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Information on the MMO marine licensing process is available on the Marine Management Organisation website. Further explanation is also available through the RYA marine licensing pages.