Pleasure Craft Licences: Questions and Answers

These pages provide information on how to apply for a new pleasure craft licence, transfer an existing licence, update information on a  licence or renew a pleasure craft licence, either by submitting your application through our new Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing system, or by post.  You will also find answers to the most common questions we receive about pleasure craft licences.

General Information

Application Information

Forms

Financial Information

Contact Information

What’s New?

Introduction to the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System

Transport Canada, the Office of Boating Safety is pleased to offer the online Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS) as the preferred and quickest method in applying for a pleasure craft licence.

This new system will allow a pleasure craft owner to do the following transactions online:

  1. Apply for a new Pleasure Craft Licence.
  2. Transfer a previously licensed pleasure craft to their name. 
  3. Update information (change of address; telephone number, contact information, as well as any changes made to the boat); and
  4. Request a duplicate copy of their pleasure craft licence.

By completing the application request online, and uploading the required supporting documentation, an acknowledgment number (identical to the pleasure craft licence number that will be issued to you) will be provided by e-mail.  This number is valid for 90 days from the issue date is to be marked on the side of your pleasure craft, in order for you to use your craft immediately.

Upon verification of the application and supporting documentation, the permanent pleasure craft licence will be sent to you, by the delivery method you selected (e-mail or by post).

This new online submission method will eliminate the present mailing time and result in the pleasure craft owner being able to enjoy their boat sooner.

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What is a pleasure craft?

A pleasure craft is a vessel that is used for recreation and does not carry passengers. It is a vessel of a prescribed class under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

NOTE: For the purposes of this definition, a "passenger" is a person who has paid a fee to be transported in a commercial vessel. A "guest" does not need to pay a fee.

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What is a pleasure craft licence and why do I need it?

A pleasure craft licence provides a unique identification number - commonly referred to as the "licence number" - that you must display on your recreational vessel, as required under the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. This licence number helps law-enforcement and search and rescue officials trace a pleasure craft to its owner.

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What types of pleasure craft do I need to license?

A licence or registration is mandatory for all pleasure craft equipped with motors of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more, including personal watercraft, which are principally maintained or operated in Canada.

Owners of pleasure craft of all tonnages and lengths may choose to license them under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Alternatively, pleasure craft owners may choose to register their vessels in the Canadian Register of Vessels.

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What is a dealer or demonstration licence?

A dealer or demonstration licence is a pleasure craft licence used for demonstration purposes only. This type of licence does not apply to any one pleasure craft. A boat dealer applies for a dealer or demonstration licence to use it on any of the unlicensed pleasure craft in the dealer's name. Dealers should not paint the licence number on any pleasure craft, since pleasure craft owners must apply for another licence number once they purchase the pleasure craft.

Requests for a dealer or demonstration licence are currently accepted by fax, or by post. It is anticipated that boat dealers will be able to submit a request for the dealer or demonstration licence through a future release of the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System.

Boat dealers can read our Dealer's Guide to Pleasure Craft Licensing for information on applying for a pleasure craft licence.

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How long is a pleasure craft licence valid for?

Due to recent changes to Section 106 of the Small Vessel Regulations, pleasure craft licences are now valid for 10 years. If there are changes to your name or address in that time, you must update your licence. This information is used by law enforcement and search and rescue organizations in emergency situations.

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How should I display the licence number on my pleasure craft?

You must display the licence number on both sides of the bow, above the waterline, in block characters that are at least 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) high and in a colour that contrasts with the colour of the bow.

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Does the licence prove the ownership of my pleasure craft?

A licence does not prove that you own your pleasure craft. You must carry separate ownership documents with you.

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What is the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System?

The online Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS) is the preferred and quickest method in applying for a pleasure craft licence.

Applicants can now submit their request for a new, a transfer, an update or a renewal of the Pleasure Craft Licence, electronically.

Supporting documentation will differ per transaction type, and is to be uploaded and submitted with the request. Please have all supporting documents available when submitting the request.

Upon submitting the application, an acknowledgment number will be returned which is valid for 90 days from the issue date.  A copy of the document must be printed and kept on board the vessel at all times and the acknowledgment number is to be marked in BLOCK characters not less than 7.5 cm (3 inches) high, on each side of the bow of the boat and in a colour that contrasts with the background colour.

Upon verification of the application and the required supporting documentation by the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre, the permanent pleasure craft licence will be sent to the pleasure craft owner.

For further information on Supporting Documentation, please see the appropriate Q&A pertaining to the application type.

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I just bought a new pleasure craft. How do I license it?

ELECTRONICALLY:

If you choose to submit your request for your NEW Pleasure Craft Licence online:
 

By submitting the request for a new Pleasure Craft Licence online, an acknowledgment number will be returned to the applicant immediately.  This acknowledgment number (identical to the pleasure craft licence number that will be issued) is valid for 90 days from the issue date and is to be marked on the side of the boat, in order to use the pleasure craft immediately.

Upon verification of the submitted information and required supporting documentation, the permanent pleasure craft licence will be sent to the pleasure craft owner, by the delivery method selected (e-mail, or by post).

By applying through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing system, you will be requested to upload supporting documentation.  Please have the following documents in the proper file format ready for upload before starting the online process -  click on the link for additional information.

If you must submit additional documents, there are two optional file inputs where additional supporting documents can be uploaded.

Please note:  The maximum size for upload of any file is 5 MB (five megabytes).  Only the following file formats are acceptable:

  • PDF, JPG, TIFF or PNG.

If your digital camera produces a file format other than those mentioned above, you will need to use the software that came with your camera to convert the images to the proper format.

BY POST:

If you choose to send in your application by post, you must submit the following documents:

Instructions about how to fill out Form 84-0172E, Application for Pleasure Craft Licence, may be found on our How-to page. In particular, see the "To license a pleasure craft that has never been licensed" section.

If you do not have documents to prove that you own the pleasure craft, you will need to make a declaration under oath stating why you cannot produce the bill of sale or proof of ownership. You may use the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided on this Web site or another similar document, as long as it contains all the required information.

When applying for a pleasure craft licence, include a signed photocopy of your government-issued identification. For privacy and security reasons, the signed photocopy of the government-issued identification will be destroyed (DO NOT SEND AN ORIGINAL COPY).

Your application and supporting documents must be mailed-in for processing to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.

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How do I license a pleasure craft that I bought in the United States? Or that I bought in a country other than Canada?

To license a new or used pleasure craft you bought in the United States, or in any country other than Canada, follow the application instructions given for I just bought a new pleasure craft. How do I license it?   You may apply for a Pleasure Craft Licence online through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System, or you may submit your application, by post.

On the Application Form, ''FOREIGN” must be indicated/checked in section "C" - Unlicensed pleasure craft.

You do not need to provide customs clearance documents to license a pleasure craft that you purchased outside of Canada, but you still need to remit duty and taxes on the purchase to the Canada Border Services Agency.

For information on how to remit duty and taxes on the purchase of a pleasure craft, please visit the Canada Border Services Agency Web site or call 1-800-461-9999.

A pleasure craft can only have one licence issued either in Canada or in the United States (US). It cannot have both. Displaying both licence numbers can result in a fine.

In order for a pleasure craft to be eligible for a Canadian licence, it must be principally maintained and operated in Canada.

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How do I license a pleasure craft I built myself?

You have two options in applying for a pleasure craft licence number for a pleasure craft you've built yourself – you can submit a request through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System  or you can send your “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence” form, by post.  

Electronically (the preferred method):

By submitting the request for a new pleasure craft licence online, an acknowledgment number will be returned to you immediately.  This acknowledgment number (identical to the pleasure craft licence number that will be issued to you) is valid for 90 days from the issue date and is to be marked on the side of the boat, in order to use the pleasure craft  immediately.

Upon verification of the submitted information and required supporting documentation, the permanent pleasure craft licence will be sent to you, by the delivery method you selected (e-mail, or by post).

You will be requested to upload your supporting documentation,  Please ensure you have the following documents in the proper file format ready for upload before you start the online process – click on the link for additional information.

  1. A copy of a valid piece of government-issued identification;
  2. a declaration under oath that states who built the pleasure craft (you may use this sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) *); and
  3. a current full side-view photo of the pleasure craft.

Because your boat is home-built and as a result there is no bill of sale or any proof of ownership document, you will need to make a declaration under oath stating that you built your boat. You may use the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided on this site or another similar document, as long as it contains all the information required.

Please note:  The maximum size for upload of any file is 5 MB (five megabytes).  Only the following file formats are acceptable:

  • PDF, JPG, TIFF or PNG.

If your digital camera produces a file format other than those mentioned above, you will need to use the software that came with your camera to convert the images to the proper format.

If you choose to submit your request for your new Pleasure Craft Licence by post, you must submit the following documents:

Instructions on how to fill out Form 84-0172E, Application for Pleasure Craft Licence may be found on our How-to page. In particular, see the "To license a pleasure craft that has never been licensed" section.

NOTE: Be sure to check the "Home-built" box in the "Description of vessel" section of the application form.

Because your boat is home-built and as a result there is no bill of sale or any proof of ownership document, you will need to make a declaration under oath stating that you built your boat. You may use the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided on this site or another similar document, as long as it contains all the information required.

Your application and supporting documents must be mailed-in for processing to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.

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I just bought a used pleasure craft. How do I transfer the licence to my name?

Modifications to the Small Vessel Regulations, s. 103 have changed the Pleasure Craft Licensing process:

103. A pleasure craft that is the subject of a transfer of ownership may be operated until the day on which the new owner of the pleasure craft receives a transferred licence, up to a maximum of 90 days from the day of the transfer of ownership, if documents are carried on board confirming the name and address of the new owner and the date of the transfer of ownership.

To transfer a Canadian licensed pleasure craft to your name, you have two options in submitting your request - You can request a request for the transfer of the pleasure craft licence number online (electronically) through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System, or you can submit your “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence” form, by post. 

Electronically (the preferred method):

By submitting your request for transfer of the pleasure craft licence online, an acknowledgment will be returned to you immediately, with the updated information.  This acknowledgment number (identical to the pleasure craft licence number) is valid for 90 days from the issue date.

Upon verification of the submitted information and required supporting documentation, the permanent pleasure craft licence will be sent to you, by the delivery method you selected (e-mail, or by post).

You will be requested to upload your supporting documentation. Please ensure you have the following documents in the proper file format ready for upload before you start the online process before you start the online process – click on the link for additional information.

Please note:  The maximum size for upload of any file is 5 MB (five megabytes).  Only the following file formats are acceptable:

  • PDF, JPG, TIFF or PNG.

If your digital camera produces a file format other than those mentioned above, you will need to use the software that came with your camera to convert the images to the proper format.

If you choose to send in your application by post, you must submit the following documents:

Instructions on how to fill out the paper Form 84-0172E, Application for Pleasure Craft Licence, may be found on our How-to page. In particular, see the "To transfer a pleasure craft licence" section.

Whatever method you choose, if you do not have documents that prove you own the pleasure craft, you will need to make a declaration under oath stating why you cannot produce the bill of sale or proof of ownership. You can use the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided on this site or another similar document, as long as it contains all the information required.

When submitting your “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence” by post, include a signed photocopy of your personal identification document. For privacy and security reasons, the signed photocopy of the government-issued identification will be destroyed (DO NOT SEND AN ORIGINAL COPY).

If sending your application and supporting documents by post, mail to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.

For information on how to remit taxes when you purchase a used pleasure craft, please contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

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I am selling my pleasure craft. How do I transfer the licence?

When you sell your pleasure craft, keep a copy of your bill of sale in case someone later questions the ownership of the vessel. Provide the new owner with a signed bill of sale. The new owner will then have to transfer the pleasure craft licence by either submitting his request for a transfer of a Pleasure Craft Licence online through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System, or by sending an application form and the necessary documents by mail to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.

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How do I replace a lost pleasure craft licence?

To replace a lost pleasure craft licence, you may request a “duplicate” copy online, through the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System, you will need to upload and submit the following document:

The current full side-view photograph of the pleasure craft is NOT required when requesting a duplicate licence.

Instructions on how to complete the online request, will be noted on the PCELS site, once you have made your selection (Duplicate)

If the request for a duplicate pleasure craft licence is being sent in by post, you must submit the following documents:

If the information on file does not indicate that you are the owner, you will need to make a declaration under oath. You can use the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided on this site or another similar document, as long as it contains all the information required.

Instructions on how to fill out Form 84-0172E, Application for Pleasure Craft Licence, may be found on our How-to page. In particular, see the "To get a duplicate licence" section.

Include a signed photocopy of your government-issued identification document. For privacy and security reasons, the signed photocopy of the government-issued identification will be destroyed (DO NOT SEND AN ORIGINAL COPY).

Your request for a duplicate of your pleasure craft licence and the supporting documents are to be mailed to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.

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Who can apply for a pleasure craft licence?

Any person or entity owning a pleasure craft should apply for a licence. The owner(s) of the craft may authorize a third party to apply for the licence on their behalf (i.e. a dealer may apply for the licence on behalf of their customer so that the craft can be marked before it leaves the dealership), provided the following is submitted:

  • A letter from the owner or legal representative stating that the third party has authorization to act on their behalf and permission to supply Transport Canada with the necessary documentation required to license the pleasure craft. You may use the Sample Third Party Authorization Letter (PDF Version, 8 KB) * provided on this site.
  • Valid identification to prove the person applying for the licence on behalf of the owner is who is specified in the letter of permission signed by the owner.
  • Other documents normally required to obtain a pleasure craft licence completed by the owner or legal representative.

NOTE: "Third party" refers to any person or entity acting on behalf of the owner. This includes employees wishing to license a vessel on behalf of their employer (e.g. licensing a vessel under a business name).

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Can a licence have more than one owner listed on it?

Yes.  The request for a Pleasure Craft Licence has fields for two owners to indicate their “Family Name”; ‘Given Name”; and “Initial”.

If  you are submitting online, link to the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS).

By post:

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What documents can I use as valid government-issued identification?

Valid pieces of identification include the following documents:

  • provincial/territorial birth certificate
  • certificate of Canadian citizenship
  • valid Canadian passport
  • provincial/territorial driver's licences
  • other forms of government-issued identification (preferably with a photo)

NOTE: Certain provinces and territories prohibit the use of their health cards as identification. For this reason, we cannot accept a provincial/territorial health card as proof of identification.

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What documents can I use as valid proof of ownership?

To establish proof of ownership, we accept documents that contain the following information:

  • name, address, and signature of previous owner;
  • name and signature of new owner;
  • description of the pleasure craft (make, model, and other details requested on the application form);
  • hull serial number (HIN) or compliance label number (if available); and
  • pleasure craft licence number (if already licensed).

Documents that we consider to be valid proof of ownership (depending on the application type) include the following:

  • bills of sale
  • statutory declarations
  • wills and bequests
  • separation or divorce agreements
  • court judgements
  • signed agreements of transfer of ownership (sale/purchase agreement)

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What is considered an “acceptable photograph”?

In order to enhance the integrity of the Pleasure Craft Licensing system, you are now required to submit / provide a current full side-view photo of the pleasure craft along with your Pleasure Craft Licence application.

The current full side-view photo of the pleasure craft consists of the following criteria:

  • Good lighting conditions (no heavy shadows, no large wash-out areas)
  • All of the boat side included in the photo
  • Do not send a photo of the boat surrounded by other boats.

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Additional information for submitting supporting documentation online:

The file format:

  • The maximum size for upload of any file is 5 MB (five megabytes).  Only the following file formats are acceptable:

    • PDF, JPG, TIFF or PNG.

  • f your digital camera produces a file format other than those mentioned above, you will need to use the software that came with your camera to convert the images to the proper format.

A photo is required for the following transactions:

  • New, Transfer, Updates, Renewals and Cancellations (photo not required for Duplicate).

"What is considered an acceptable photograph"?

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How do I complete a declaration under oath?

You can complete the declaration under oath on the sample declaration form (PDF Version, 62 KB) * provided. However, you can also complete these declarations on another sworn document, as long as the document contains enough information to demonstrate that you are legally entitled to license a specific pleasure craft.

The declaration should include the following information:

  • your name, date of birth, and address, as the new owner;
  • the licence number of the pleasure craft (if applicable);
  • the make and model of the pleasure craft;
  • the hull serial number (HIN);
  • the hull material and colour;
  • the propulsion type;
  • the name of the previous owner;
  • an explanation as to why you cannot produce proof of ownership or other documents;
  • for an unlicensed pleasure craft, a statement that, to the best of your knowledge, the pleasure craft was not previously licensed;
  • the date the original licence was issued (if applicable);
  • your signature, as the new owner;
  • the signature of a lawyer, notary, justice of the peace, or commissioner of oaths; and
  • the printed name of the lawyer, notary, justice of the peace, or commissioner of oaths.

NOTE: A lawyer, notary, justice of the peace, commissioner of oaths, or another person legally entitled to sign such documents in Canada must sign a declaration under oath. You may have to pay a fee to obtain the signature for a declaration under oath.

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What kind of information does the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS) and the Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence form require and how is this information used?

The Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS) and the “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence” form asks for basic contact information on the pleasure craft owner, as well as a description of the vessel.

Information may be disclosed to parties involved in search and rescue activities, as well as law enforcement agencies for the purpose of carrying out a lawful investigation and enforcing any law of Canada, including the requirement to pay provincial sales tax.

At Transport Canada, we protect all information you provide on your application form according to the appropriate privacy and access to information legislation. The information collected is described in the Personal Information Bank entitled Pleasure Craft Licences (bank number DOT PPU 044). Under the provisions of the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act individuals have the right of access to, and protection of, their personal information. Instructions for obtaining personal information are provided in Info Source, a copy of which is available in major public and academic libraries or online at www.infosource.gc.ca.

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How do I get to the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing system and how do I submit my request?

In order to submit your request for either a new, a transfer, an amendment or a duplicate of your Pleasure Craft Licence, please click on the following link:   Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing Systemand follow the instructions.

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I am submitting my request for a Pleasure Craft Licence online. What documents do I need and what format must they be in?

Based on the application type you have chosen, the following supporting documentation is to be uploaded with your online submission. The required supporting documentation will be noted once you have selected your application type. Please ensure you have the documents in the proper file format ready for upload before you begin the online process.

You may submit the following file formats only:  PDF, JPG, TIFF or PNG.

If you are applying for a NEW pleasure craft licence or requesting the TRANSFER of a licensed Canadian pleasure craft, you must attach copies of the following documents:

For NEW HOME BUILT boats, in addition to the above, you must also provide the following:

  • A Declaration under Oath that states who built the boat.   You may use the sample declaration or another similar document as long as the form contains all the required information.

To UPDATE information on your pleasure craft licence you must provide the following supporting documentation:

To request a DUPLICATE of your pleasure craft licence

To RENEW your Pleasure Craft Licence, please attach the following document:

In some cases, additional documentation may be required to substantiate your application request.  This may include a copy of a Will or Death Certificate, or extra vessel photo.  You are provided with two additional “Optional File” buttons. 

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I received an e-mail notifying me that I must submit documentation. Why is that?

You have a period of 90 days in which to submit the supporting documentation required to validate your pleasure craft licence application.

E-mails advising you that your pleasure craft licence application is incomplete will be sent to you at 45 days; and at 75 days from the initial submission.  You will be provided with a URL where you are to upload the required supporting documentation.

If the requested documents are not forwarded to Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre within the allotted timeframe, your pleasure craft licence application will be deleted and you will have to reapply.

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How do I submit my application by post??

The paper “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence“ along with the required supporting documentation are to be mailed-in for processing to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre:

P.O. Box 2006
Fredericton, New Brunswick
E3B 5G4

Please allow five (5) business days plus mailing time to process your application. Applications cannot be processed unless you provide complete information and include all required documents.

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What forms do I need to apply for a pleasure craft licence?

To apply for a pleasure craft licence, you can obtain your Pleasure Craft Licence either electronically through the “Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System”) or, you can fill out a paper application form.

In either case, you will be required to provide the appropriate supporting documents to substantiate your request.

If you are submitting your request, electronically:

Depending on the type of request you have selected, the following supporting documents may be required:

If you are submitting your request by post:

Depending on the type of request, supporting documents may include:

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Do I have to pay a fee to obtain a pleasure craft licence?

No, there is no fee for obtaining a pleasure craft licence.

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How can I find out if the used pleasure craft I want to buy has an outstanding lien, mortgage, or loan against it?

All provinces have personal property registries where citizens can search for financial and security information on personal property such as cars, boats, and tractors.

These personal property registries provide online registration and search services to support both the legislative requirements of the provincial personal property security acts and the enforcement of money judgments and other civil enforcement proceedings.

You can find your provincial site online by performing an Internet search using the name of your province and the phrase "personal property registry." You can also visit your local provincial service centre for more information.

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Do I have to pay taxes when buying a new or used pleasure craft?

For the application of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) to the supply of a new or used boat, please contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by calling 1-800-959-8287.

Additionally, Provincial Sales Tax (PST) may need to be paid to the provincial/territorial government. You should contact your provincial/territorial Ministry of Finance to get more information on how to remit the PST.

For links to provincial/territorial departments of finance, business service centres, and other tax and financial services please visit the related provincial and territorial Canada Revenue Agency web sites.

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Is there a fine if I do not have a pleasure craft licence?

There is a fine of $250 if you are found to be operating a vessel without a licence. However, if you decided to register your vessel instead of licensing it, there is no fine.

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How do I contact the Pleasure Craft Licensing program?

For questions about the Pleasure Craft Licensing program, call the Boating Safety InfoLine at 1-800-267-6687, or e-mail the Office of Boating Safety at obs-bsn@tc.gc.ca.

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Is the pleasure craft "licence" and the pleasure craft "operator card" the same thing?

The pleasure craft operator card is sometimes referred to as a licence, but the two are not the same. The pleasure craft licence provides each vessel with a licence number. The pleasure craft operator card is a form of proof that pleasure craft operators must carry to demonstrate their competency to operate a pleasure craft.

The card is the most common proof of competency. However, boaters can also demonstrate competency if they:

  • can prove they successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999; or
  • have completed a rental boat safety checklist for boat renters.

For more information on operator competency requirements and how they apply to you, visit National Pleasure Craft Operator Competency Program.

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What is the difference between a licence and registration?

Pleasure craft licence

A pleasure craft licence provides a unique identification number - commonly referred to as the "licence number" - that an owner of a pleasure craft must display on the bow. This number helps law enforcement and search and rescue officials trace a pleasure craft to its owner. An owner must display the licence number on both sides of the bow of the pleasure craft, above the water line, in block characters not less than 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) high and in a colour that contrasts with the colour of the bow.

The licence is mandatory for all pleasure craft equipped with motors of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more, including personal watercraft.

NOTE: You do not need a pleasure craft licence if a boat is registered. For more information, read What types of pleasure craft do I need to license?

The pleasure craft licence is free of charge, and can be transferred to any subsequent owner of the pleasure craft. You must carry a copy of the licence on board your vessel at all times. However, a licence is not a title document. You must also carry other documents, such as a document that establishes ownership, to help avoid delays clearing U.S. or Canada customs, or in case of a fine.

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Registering your pleasure craft

The Canadian Register of Vessels is a title system that keeps track of the owners of vessels. It contains information on each vessel such as ownership and vessel characteristics, e.g. tonnage, construction material and type. When you register, you receive an official number for your vessel, as well as a unique name. It also provides certain benefits, such as the right to fly the Canadian flag.

If you intend to use your vessel as security for a marine mortgage, you are required to register your vessel.

Registration is optional for all pleasure craft, regardless of tonnage and length, as per the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

There are costs associated with registering. However, the registration is good for as long as you own the vessel. You must carry registration documents on board the vessel at all times, together with any other ownership documents, to help avoid delays clearing U.S. or Canada customs, or in case of a fine.

Transport Canada provides this registration service. For frequently asked questions on registration, please visit the Vessel Registration Office Web site.

Registering your small commercial vessel:

In Canada, you must register commercial vessels of all sizes. This includes human-powered craft such as kayaks and white-water rafts used by guides for guided trips; but not lifeboats or other survival craft on board a larger ship, which are inspected as a part of the ship’s equipment. A pleasure craft licence is not acceptable for a commercial vessel. You should have your registration documents on board at all times.

If your vessel is no more than 15 gross tonnage, you may register it in either the Small Vessel Register or the Canadian Register of Vessels. If your vessel is more than 15 gross tonnage, or if you want to register a mortgage, you must register it in the Canadian Register of Vessels.

The Vessels Registry Fees Tariff allows for the registration of a "fleet of vessels", which means two or more vessels of less than 5 gross tonnage that are owned by the same person, other than a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government, for a flat fee of $50.00 if the owner applies for all registrations/renewals at the same time.

Licensed vessels:

If you licensed your vessel in the Small Commercial Vessel Licensing System (your licence begins with 'C') before July 1, 2007, it will be treated as if it were registered until:

  • it is sold to someone else; or, if it is not sold;
  • the licence expires

If you licensed your vessel with Canada Customs, it will be treated as if it were registered until:

  • it is sold to someone else; or, if it is not sold;
  • July 1, 2012

For more information on how to register your vessel, refer to Registration of Small Commercial Vessels.

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Can I both register and license my pleasure craft?

No, you cannot both license and register a pleasure craft.

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How does the licensing system improve public safety and security?

Search and rescue and law enforcement officials have immediate access to the boat information stored in the common database, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This information can help quickly identify owners of boats in emergency situations.

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