Self-service licensing

Advice on using the MMO self-service licensing system.


In July 2017, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) replaced their fast track marine licensing with a self-service marine licensing system. This service is also available through the MMO MCMS system.

If your activity does not fall under an exemption, and you require a marine licence, the MMO licensing tool can indicate whether you may be able to apply for a self-service licence.

Self-service activities, laid out in the self-service activities table, of relevance to recreational boating include:

  • Certain marker posts and marker buoys (including race markers);
  • Removal or replacement of a single pile;
  • Scaffolding to maintain existing structures;
  • Repainting of existing structures;
  • Removal of marine growth from existing structures (excluding from vessels);
  • Re-rendering, resurfacing or repointing of existing structures or slipways; and
  • Minor maintenance for the upkeep or small-scale repair of an existing structure.

Self-service licences cost a flat fee of £50, paid in advance. Changes or variations are not permitted once the licence is issued.

General criteria for a self-service licence include:

  • the activity must be completed within 12 months of the licence being issued;
  • the activity must not need an Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • the activity area should not exceed 10 square miles (or separate locations must not be more than 10 miles apart and in total their areas must not exceed 10 square miles);
  • the activity is not within a site protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986;
  • the activity is not within, or in the approaches of, an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) routing measure, unless relating to management or maintenance of the measure; and
  • any intrusive activity (such as dredging, boreholes etc.) is not in an area shown on an admiralty chart as hosting cables, pipelines or other existing assets or structures, unless the purpose of the activity is to mark, maintain or enable continued use of the asset or structure.

The MMO GIS tool provides spatial information on many designations to aid your application.

Once the licence has been granted, the MMO needs to be notified no less than 24 hours before the licensed activity begins, using the returns function in the MCMS.

Marine licensing assistance tool

This tool guides you through a series of questions to determine if your proposed activity requires a marine licence, and whether it is suitable for the self-service licensing process. The tool asks questions to ascertain whether the activity is proposed to take place in an area under MMO marine jurisdiction and the type of activity to be carried out. Potential self-service activities will be tested against further questions, and indication given if you require a method statement. Activities unsuitable for self-service licensing will be directed to the standard marine licensing process.

GIS data tool

The MMO GIS tool for marine licensing can be used to determine if your activity falls within the MMO marine licensing areas, the size of your proposed site, or distances between locations in the same application. It includes layers of:

Method Statements and Consents

For certain self-service licences, method statements, agreed with the relevant body, are required before the licence can be granted. Templates to prepare draft method statements are available on the MMO website, with details as to where to send them. These can then be uploaded when you submit your application. Method statement requirements are laid out on the MMO website, and in their method statement requirements table.

Historic England

Heritage designation applies to protected wrecks under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, scheduled monuments designated under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and listed buildings designate under The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation) Act 1990.

A method statement is required in agreement with Historic England for:

  • Activities in or involving vehicular access through a heritage designation;
  • Activities that involve establishing the presence or nature of items of archaeological or historic interest; and
  • Activities involving removal of items of archaeological or historic interest, or from a wreck site anywhere at sea.

A draft method statement, and relevant contact details are available on the MMO website.

Natural England

Activities in, or within 200m of, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs; including MCZs, SACs, SPAs, Ramsar and SSSIs) may be suitable for self-service licensing, if an agreed method statement with Natural England is included. This includes activities involving vehicular access across MPA intertidal coastal habitats. A draft method statement, and relevant contact details are available on the MMO website.

Some selected activities, including the following that may be relevant to recreational boating, do not require a method statement, as adequate mitigation is expected through self-service activity criteria and conditions applied to the licence:

  • Repainting of structures or assets which includes preparation work;
  • Removal of marine growth from structures and assets other than vessels;
  • Deposit and subsequent removal of marker buoys including racing markers;
  • Deposit and subsequent removal of scaffolding or access towers;

Ministry of Defence

Activities proposed to be carried out in areas used for military or defence purposes may be suitable for self-service if carried out by, or on behalf of, the MoD, or the MoD has been consulted and permission granted to carry out the activity. Areas under MoD jurisdiction are available in the MMO GIS tool, and details of who to contact at the MoD are available on the MMO website.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency/ Local Harbour Authority/ Trinity House

A method statement, agreed with either the local harbour authority or the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Trinity House, is required for any scaffold which may impede safe or normal navigation through the reduction of head clearance or navigational channel width. A draft method statement, and relevant contact details are available on the MMO website.

Lighting and marking configuration for any markers must have been agreed in advance with the local harbour authority, or if such body doesn’t exist, Trinity House. A draft method statement, and relevant contact details are available on the MMO website.  

Further Consents

In addition to a marine licence, further consents may also be required, such as:

  • planning consent for works above the low water mark;
  • scheduled monument or listed building consents for certain designated heritage assets;
  • land owner consents such as the Crown Estate; and
  • Environment Agency Approval where works have implications for flood defence or involve a discharge, through an environmental permit.

For further advice or support contact the Planning Team on