Registering a vessel

From Transport Canada

In Canada, you may either register or license a pleasure craft. A commercial vessel must be registered unless exempted from registration under the Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations, subsection 1.1 “Exempted Classes of Vessels.” The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations set out the relevant requirements.

For a full explanation of the distinctions between the terms, see the definitions of “pleasure craft” and “commercial vessels.”

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Register a pleasure craft

If you choose to register your pleasure craft, rather than licensing it, keep in mind the following differences in the procedures and markings:

  • There are fees to register your pleasure craft.
  • The exterior markings on a registered pleasure craft are the name of the vessel and the port of registry, for example: Morning Star III, Toronto, ON
  • The interior markings on a registered pleasure craft are the official number and the registered tonnage, for example: O.N. 123456, N.R.T. 4.52

Note: You must register your pleasure craft in the Canadian Register of Vessels if you require a marine mortgage on the vessel.

Register a commercial vessel in Canadian Register of Vessels or Small Vessel Register

All commercial vessels must be registered. There are two options, the Canadian Register of Vessels and the Small Vessel Register.

For information about fees, see the Vessel Registry Fees Tariff.

Canadian Register of Vessels

This register applies to vessels of all types and sizes including pleasure and commercial. This type of registration is required for:

  • vessels more than 15 gross tonnes used for commercial purposes, including government-owned vessels (if unsure of tonnage, check this explanation of tonnage measurements)
  • vessels that require marine mortgages
  • if you are planning to travel outside of Canada for extended periods of time.

You may also choose to register your pleasure craft in the Canadian Register of Vessels if you wish to have an approved name and port of registry for your vessel or show proof of ownership.

Register your vessel using the Canadian Register of Vessels Online Service

Small Vessel Register

This registry only applies to commercial (non-pleasure) vessels that are 15 gross tons or less.

This type of registration is required for: 

  • vessels less than or equal to 15 gross tonnes used for commercial purposes with propulsion motors of 10 horsepower (7.5kW) or more (if unsure of tonnage, check this explanation of tonnage measurements)
  • commercial river rafts
  • government-owned vessels with propulsion motors of 10 horsepower (7.5kW) or more.

This type of registration is not required if:

  • your vessel does not or will not have a mortgage
  • you do not wish to register an “official” name;
  • you don’t intend to travel outside of Canada.

Register your vessel using the Small Vessel Register Online Service

Note: For information on a program designed especially for small commercial vessels, check out the Small Vessel Compliance Program (SVCP). This easy-to-use tool helps small commercial vessel owners operate safely and protect the environment. The SVCP does not currently apply to fishing vessels or human-powered vessels.

Find official information on vessel registration

To search for current information on the registration of your own vessel or another vessel, use the Vessel Registration Query System.

To obtain an official transcript of the registration of your vessel please submit you written request to the Vessel Registration office or (only for those registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels), use the Online Transcript Order system.

To research the history of a vessel, including previous names and ownership, review the Continuous Synopsis Record.

Contact us for help with vessel registration

For assistance, or to find out the status of your application, view the contact information for the Vessel Registration Office.

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