Abandoned boats or wrecks

Did you know Canada is considering an approach based on the International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, that would address the hazards associated with shipwrecks?

Read Transport Canada's Discussion Paper that outlines the proposed approach and welcomes stakeholder comments.

The Issue

When boating in Canada's waterways or along its coastlines, you may see abandoned boats and wrecks. They may interfere with safe boating, put public safety at risk and harm the environment. They are not a pretty sight. For example:

  • Leaks may pollute the water and harm people and the marine environment.
  • Abandoned boats or wrecks near public areas can pose safety risks.
  • Boaters may not see them in time to avoid a crash.
  • Other boats may be blocked from a passage.

Transport Canada's Role

Transport Canada is responsible for promoting safe navigation in Canadian waterways and coastal waters.

Transport Canada does not have the authority to remove a boat unless it poses a potential or immediate hazard to navigation. We do, however:

  • work to educate the public about being responsible boat owners; and
  • authorize any person, including a municipality (on a case-by-case basis), to remove abandoned boats or dispose of or destroy wrecks if the owner of the wreck is unknown.

I Own a Boat

Boats come in all shapes and sizes. If you own a canoe, personal watercraft, sailboat, commercial vessel, pleasure craft with a motor or luxury yacht, YOU are responsible for using it safely, keeping it in good working order and properly disposing of it when it is no longer seaworthy. You are also responsible for any pollution-related costs, including clean-up and/or repairs.

Here's a brief look at the stages of responsible boat ownership:

  1. Plan to become a boat owner.

    When you start to consider buying a boat, plan carefully. This is the time to budget and to find out what you will need to begin your boating adventure, in terms of documentation, insurance, training and safety equipment.

    And, while it is the first stage of boat ownership, the planning stage is also the time to start thinking about what you'll do when the adventure ends – sell the boat or dispose of it responsibly.

  2. Buy and license or register your boat.

    Congratulations on becoming a boat owner! Make sure to license or register your boat.

    While these words mean one thing when we talk about owning and driving a car, they mean different things when we talk about boats.

    • Pleasure craft owners must license or register all boats with a 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more engine. Note: If your boat is required to be licensed and it is not, you may be subject to a $250 fine.
      • A pleasure craft licence is free. It gives you a unique licence number that you must display above the waterline on both sides of the boat's bow. This number helps law enforcement and search and rescue officials in an emergency. Note: You must carry your licence document with you when using your boat.
      • Registration has a cost. It gives you a unique name and official number. This number helps law enforcement and search and rescue officials in an emergency. It serves as proof of ownership in and outside of Canada.
    • You must register a commercial vessel if it is powered with a motor of 10 HP/7.5 kW or more or is a commercial river raft. Note: If your vessel is required to be registered and it is not, you may be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 per day. Such registration:
      • serves as proof of ownership in and outside of Canada; and
      • helps law enforcement and search and rescue officials in an emergency.
    • You must ensure that your licence or registration information is up to date.
  3. Meet all safety requirements.

    Responsible boat owners:

    Here are resources that will help you learn how:

  4. Dispose of your boat.

    There comes a time in every boat owner's life when they no longer want or need their boat.

    If the boat is still in good condition, you may choose to sell it. If you do, make sure that the ownership documents and the licence or registration are properly transferred.

    Note: Many people who sell registered boats do not know that, if the new owner does not complete the transfer of ownership as specified in Part 2 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the registered owner could still be liable for the vessel.

    If the boat is in poor condition or no longer runs, you should plan for responsible disposal.

    How can I get rid of my boat when it's not worth selling?

    Don't let your boat become a wreck. This will save you time and money. Options for disposing of your boat vary across Canada:

    • Find a boat recycling facility in your area.
    • Search for charities or companies in your region that may want your boat.
    • Ask the nearest landfill operator if they accept old boats.
    • Ask local boat retailers if they take old boats in trade.

I Found an Abandoned Boat or Wreck

Who to notify about an abandoned boat or wreck that you believe poses a threat to public safety, the environment or safe navigation.

Assess the threat: Contact:

The boat or wreck poses an immediate and serious threat to public safety (because of fire, explosion, or suspicious activity.)

Local Police or 911

The boat or wreck poses a potential, actual or immediate threat to the environment (because it is leaking oil or another substance that could pollute the water.)

The Canadian Coast Guard

  • NL: 1-800-563-9089
  • NB, NS, PEI: 1-800-565-1633
  • QC: 1-800-363-4735
  • ON, NU: 1-800-265-0237
  • BC, AB, SK, MB, YK, NWT: 1-800-889-8852

Why? The Canadian Coast Guard takes the lead when addressing pollution from boats and ships.

All lines are open 24 hours every day.

The boat or wreck poses a potential, actual or immediate threat to safe navigation (because it makes navigation dangerous or blocks other boats from a passage)

Transport Canada

Navigation Protection Program, nearest regional office

Why? If there is an obstruction, Transport Canada may order the wreck/boat be moved or removed, within the limits of its authority

What to do if you want to take possession of and remove an abandoned boat or salvage a wreck.

Taking possession of an abandoned boat before it becomes a wreck saves time and money. However, if it has heritage or military value, do not touch it! Contact Transport Canada's nearest regional office.

If you find and want an abandoned boat or a wreck, and you:

Otherwise, contact Transport Canada for more information and assistance.

Program officers will respond on a case-by-case basis, within the limits of Transport Canada's authority.

For example, under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, when someone finds and takes possession of a wreck, the "Receiver of Wreck" will try to locate the owner. The Act gives authority to the Receiver of Wreck to dispose of or destroy a wreck (e.g. sell, give away or destroy) or to authorize its disposal or destruction by a salvor when the owner is unknown.

The Receiver of Wreck may do so in 90 days after a wreck has been reported. The Receiver of Wreck may take action sooner if:

  • its value is less than $5,000;
  • storage costs will likely be greater than the value of the wreck; or
  • it poses a threat to public health or safety.
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