Chapter 1 - Know and comply with the requirements that apply to you

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The safety requirements for all vessels relate to the risk linked to each type and use of vessel. As the vessel size, number of passengers, distance from shore and other environmental risk factors increase, the requirements change to protect the vessel and the people on it.

Consult the following sections for the information you need to determine which requirements apply to your vessel.

What You Do Defines What You Are

To know what requirements apply to your vessel, you must know what you are doing with it in the legal sense.

The Small Vessel Regulations contain safety requirements for five categories of vessels. Which requirements apply depends on the vessel's purpose (what it is used for). If your vessel is used for more than one purpose, such as commercial fishing and carrying passengers, it must meet the applicable fishing vessel requirements when you are fishing and the requirements in the Small Vessel Regulations for passenger vessels when you are carrying passengers.

Table 1-1 indicates which parts of the Small Vessel Regulations apply to each category. Requirements of other regulations, such as the Collision Regulations, also apply to small vessels.

Table 1-1: Vessel Categories, Purposes And Applicable Small Vessel Regulations
Category Purpose Parts of the Small Vessel Regulations that apply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Pleasure craft

A vessel used only for pleasure or to carry out the needs of daily living, e.g. personal transportation, fishing for one's own food.

  1. May carry guests (see Definitions, above).
  2. Includes vessels that are provided, without a master and crew, for pleasure use, as part of lodging rentals, for example.
  3. May include vessels rented or chartered for pleasure (see Chartered Vessel).
X X       X3 X X X X X
Passenger-carrying A vessel that carries one or more passengers         X   X3 X X X  
Workboat (non-pleasure non-passenger-carrying) A power-driven or sail-powered vessel that is not used for pleasure and does not carry passengers or engage in commercial fishing. Includes vessels operated by agencies and departments of all levels of government.           X X3 X X X  
Tug A vessel built or converted primarily for the purpose of towing. Does not include a vessel that is built or converted for the purpose of (a) salvaging logs; or (b) managing oil pollution booms and associated equipment.           X X1     X  
Human-powered non-pleasure vessel A human-powered vessel that is operated for non-pleasure purposes, whether or not it carries passengers. Includes a vessel that leads a guided excursion.     X           X2 X  
1. Other regulations apply for construction, such as Part VIII of the Hull Construction Regulations, and the Marine Machinery Regulations.
2. Does not apply if the vessel is not designed to be propelled by a motor.
3. Applies for vessels to which part 7 does not apply.

Chartered Vessel

If you rent or charter a vessel, it is a commercial vessel if:

  • the master is the owner or someone provided by the owner; or
  • it is used other than for pleasure.

If you rent or charter a vessel without crew and you either hire a master or operate it yourself, it is a pleasure craft so long as it is used only for your pleasure, hunting or fishing for your own food, or for other needs of your daily living.

If you are the owner, and you rent or charter the vessel without crew to someone else who uses it for pleasure, it is a pleasure craft. If you provide the master, or operate the vessel yourself, it is a commercial vessel.

Fishing Vessels

Owners, operators and crew of vessels up to 150 gross tonnage that are used for commercial fishing should consult the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations (to be replaced by the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations), and the Marine Personnel Regulations for the principal requirements for their vessel, bearing in mind that some requirements, like those in the Collision Regulations, apply to all vessels. They can get the Small Fishing Vessel Safety Manual (TP 10038) online or from a Transport Canada Centre (see Appendix 2). It provides general safety information and can be helpful for training new crew members.

If you use your commercial fishing vessel for some other use, such as carrying passengers, when you are not fishing, the requirements in this guide or some other regulations will apply. Contact your local Transport Canada Centre to learn more.

Other Situations

Contact a Transport Canada Centre for more information on:

  • commercial river rafting;
  • community-owned search and rescue vessels;
  • power or sail boating schools; and
  • sail training vessels.



Voyage Classes and Restrictions

Commercial vessels must be designed, built and equipped to operate safely in their area of operation and must be operated in a way that respects their design limitations. This means you must know both your vessel and the area where you operate it.

The requirements for crewing, construction and equipment may change from one voyage class to another.Voyage classes are defined in the Interpretation section of the Vessel Certificates Regulations (see Voyage Classes) and are mainly based on distance from shore and, in some cases, nearest place of refuge.

You must also respect any additional restrictions/requirements noted on the Notice of Inspection, if one has been issued to the vessel. Such restrictions are based on an assessment of the vessel's design, the crew's qualifications and the equipment carried.The Notice of Inspection may also define limits for the area you can operate in or set environmental conditions (e.g., wave height and wind speed) and other voyage restrictions.

It is your duty to:

  • be aware of and comply with the safety requirements that apply to your vessel;
  • not exceed your vessel's design limitations; and
  • respect recommended limits for maximum load and environmental conditions.

Did you know...?

Voyage classes changed in 2007, when the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 came into force. Where there used to be ten voyage class definitions, there are now just four: Sheltered Waters Voyage; Near Coastal Voyage, Class 1; Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2; and Unlimited Voyage. Consult the Vessel Certificates Regulations for the legal definitions.


Voyage Classes

Sheltered Waters Voyage – a voyage that is in Canada on a lake or a river above tidal waters, where a vessel can never be further than 1 nautical mile from the shore, or that is on the waters listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Vessel Certificates Regulations.

Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2 – a voyage, other than a Sheltered Waters Voyage, during which the vessel is always within 25 nautical miles from shore in coastal waters of Canada, the United States (except Hawaii) or Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and within 100 nautical miles from a place of refuge.

Near Coastal Voyage, Class 1 – a voyage that is not a Sheltered Waters Voyage or a Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2; that is between places in Canada, the United States (except Hawaii), Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the West Indies, Mexico, Central America or the northeast coast of South America; and during which the vessel is always north of latitude 6°N, and within 200 nautical miles from shore or above the continental shelf.

Unlimited Voyage – a voyage that is not a Sheltered Waters Voyage or a Near Coastal Voyage.

More Information

To consult your local Transport Canada Centre, see Appendix 2.

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