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PLA Local Knowledge Endorsement


In January 2007, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), on behalf of the Government, introduced a new national Boatmasters Licence for the skippers of commercial vessels on inland waterways. In replacing the old local licence (Watermen and Lightermen’s Licence) with a national one, the MCA introduced a requirement for ‘local knowledge’ where the nature of the waterways and trades on them (as identified through risk assessment) warranted a special endorsement.   On the Thames the more testing reaches of the river - between Margaretness and Putney Bridge -fulfilled the MCA’s criteria for a Local Knowledge Endorsement (LKE) and so it was required for anyone holding a national Boatmasters Licence navigating in this area.  However; the requirement for an LKE did not include Masters who held commercially endorsed RYA qualifications or the Masters of vessels operating under the Small Commercial Vessel (SCV) Code from having an LKE.

In July 2012 the PLA’s Thames Byelaws 2012 were implemented, which require the master of any commercial vessel between 40m and 13.7m length overall and those vessels under 13.7m length overall, which are engaged in passenger carriage or towing to hold an LKE for the tidal Thames. 

We are here to assist you with your application for such a licence and below are a number of questions you may wish to read before proceeding any further:

Do I need a LKE?

If you are the Master of a vessel navigating between Margaretness and Putney Bridge that meets any of the following requirements then you will need a LKE:

  • Your vessel is between 13.7m and 40m length overall;
  • Your vessel is less than 13.7m length overall, but is either engaged in carrying passengers or undertaking towing operations;
  • Your vessel has been issued with a Certificate of Compliance under the PLA’s Thames Byelaws 2012 to exceed the 12 knot speed limit between Margaretness and Putney Bridge

I am a Recreational User – Do I need a LKE?

Masters of Pleasure boats will only require an LKE if they have applied for a Certificate of Compliance under the PLA’s Thames Byelaws 2012 to exceed the 12 knot speed limit between Margaretness and Putney Bridge.

Who can issue me with a LKE?

If you hold an MCA Boatmasters’ Licence then you will need to obtain an MCA LKE, which can be arranged through the MCA’s Orpington Marine Office.

If you hold any other form of qualification then you will need to obtain a PLA LKE.  Details of this process are explained here.

The qualification providing the holder with greater flexibility of vessels sizes and opportunities is the MCA’s BML and LKE and in most cases should be the preferred path for those considering a career on the river.

What is the difference between a PLA LKE and a MCA LKE?

The MCA has the authority to endorse the MCA Boatmasters Licence with a LKE.  If you hold any other form of qualification then you will need to obtain a PLA LKE.  The syllabus and assessment process for both LKE’s are identical, except the PLA LKE will be examined on and restricted to the named vessels that you submit as part of your application process. The MCA LKE linked to the BML is examined on a range of vessel sizes which provides the holder with a greater range of vessel flexibility on their qualification.

What do I need to apply for a PLA LKE?

Before you can apply for a PLA LKE you will need to:

  • Hold a commercially endorsed qualification; appropriate to the type of vessel you will be navigating.
  • Have logged a minimum of 60 days experience in the Thames Local Knowledge area, submitted on a Thames Experience log (the log can be downloaded here as a Word document, or here as a PDF file) when applying for Examination or Revalidation. 

To record your experience on the tidal Thames you should download and print out the Thames Experience Log, filling in your name and date of birth. Every day you are on the river within the Thames Local Knowledge area, whether you are working or as a recreational user, please contact and approach the Harbour Service Launch to ask them to sign your form so that they can witness your presence on the river. When presenting your Thames Experience Log please also have available a nationally recognised form of photographic ID.

What do I get?

When you have successfully passed your examination you will be issued with a PLA LKE.  The LKE will be limited to the type of vessel or fleet of vessels -usually a company name- that you applied for.  If you find you need to add other vessels or a company’s fleet of vessels later on, then you will need to apply for an Endorsement Amendment.

How do I apply for a PLA LKE?

Applications for examination can be completed via telephone (01474 562205) or by email.  Examination dates are flexible, but are subject to examiners' availability.

Before applying for your PLA LKE you will need to decide what vessels and/or fleet of vessels you will be operating, as we will require this information in order to process your application. Details we will require are as follows:

  • Applicant’s full name, date of birth and digital passport style photo
  • What you applied for (Examination, Revalidation, Certificate amendment, Upgrade examination or Duplicate certificate)
  • Invoice address and your postal address
  • Agreed examination date
  • Vessel’s details (vessel type, length, draft and air draft)
  • If you apply on behalf of your employee, we would also need your name and Company order number (if any).

What to apply for?

Examination – if you don’t have a valid PLA LKE, because this is your first application or your PLA LKE has expired, then you will need to apply for this.

Revalidation – if your current certificate is due to expire, you will need to arrange for a time to be re-examined.  You can be examined up to 6 months in advance of your current PLA LKE expiry date and if successful, your new Endorsement will be valid for 5 years from the date of expiry of your old Endorsement.

Resitting failed exam – in cases where you have failed your previous exam, you will have to apply for a new examination. Please make sure you have your exam date in hand and we will try to arrange your next examination with a different examiner.

Endorsement amendment – you have decided to work on different vessels to those shown on your current PLA LKE certificate, this will result in you needing to inform us and applying for an amended Endorsement.  We will determine if your current demonstrated knowledge is sufficient for these new vessels. If the new vessels applied for are significantly different to those for which you were originally examined then we will require you to take an Upgrade Examination.

You will have to present the original  certificate in exchange for a new one.

Upgrade Examination – if you have applied for new vessels to be added to your Endorsement and we may require you to resit your PLA LKE to reflect the different vessel type or company. You will have to present the original certificate in exchange for a new one.

Duplicate certificate issue – if you have  lost your certificate or it was stolen, we will re-issue a new certificate, however you will need to cover our admin cost.  You will need to provide us with evidence of loss in order that we can reasonably restrict the number of certificates. If you find your previous certificate after issue of a duplicate kindly advise this office for determination of which to return or destroy.

How much will it cost?

All charges subject to VAT

  • Examination – full charge
  • Revalidation – full charge
  • Resitting failed exam – full charge
  • Upgrade Examination – 50% of the full charge
  • Amended certificate issue – 25% of the full charge
  • Duplicate certificate issue – 25% of the full charge.

What is the Syllabus for PLA LKE examination?

Your knowledge will be examined against the PLA LKE Syllabus. Available for download here as a Word document or here as a PDF file.

Guidance on booking an LKE

Please refer to Portwide Notice No.11 of 2016 and MIN 518 (Marine Information Note) on the MCA Website. - In place from March 2016.

To book an LKE please email LKE@pla.co.uk or call 01474 562205.