Chapter 4

Assure a competent crew

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One of the highest priorities for a vessel's safety is having enough properly trained, competent crew members to operate the vessel.

The information in this chapter will help you understand how the size, design and power of your vessel, along with its purpose and area of operation, determine which of the Marine Personnel Regulations apply to your operation so that you can comply.

Responsibilities of Owner and Operator

The vessel owner must:

  • develop procedures for safe operation of the vessel in normal and emergency conditions;
  • ensure that the crew is trained so that it can carry out its duties with skill; and
  • maintain a record of training that has been carried out.

Check out the Transport Canada website for examples of policies and procedures that you can review and change to suit your operation.

These policies and procedures support the operator's duty to make sure the crew is trained and able to carry them out well.

The owner must also make sure the operator has the certification necessary to operate the vessel. Together, the owner and operator must make sure the crew meets the certification and training requirements.

To learn more about certification and training requirements, refer to:

or contact your local Transport Canada Centre (see Appendix 2).

Crew Size

Every vessel in Canada must have enough crew members to perform the tasks necessary for the safety of the vessel and the people on board during its voyage.

The minimum crew complement for your vessel is the number of crew members required to safely handle the tasks below:

  1. Safely launch survival craft (one qualified person for each required liferaft).
  2. Handle fire-extinguishing equipment at any one location on the vessel and operate the ship's pumping and emergency power system.
  3. Keep a qualified operator on continuous radio watch.
  4. Maintain a deck watch in accordance with section 216 of the Marine Personnel Regulations while underway (see Deck Watch Requirements below) or under certain circumstances while securely anchored or moored, such as when passengers are on board.
  5. Provide first aid on board.

Marine Engineering certification may also be required for vessels that are 5 gross tonnage or more, depending on their propulsive power, unless they are of open construction as defined in the Marine Personnel Regulations or are propelled by outboard motors that are not permanently fixed. In general, an extra person to look after machinery is required on passenger vessels if the power is more than 75 kilowatts (kW) and on workboats and tugs if the power is more than 750 kW, although there are some exceptions.

Deck Watch Requirements

On a vessel of at least 5 gross tonnage, at least two people are required to maintain the deck watch, unless the vessel:

  • provides an unobstructed all-round view from the steering position and is engaged on a voyage of not more than 5 nautical miles within the limits of a harbour, in good visibility between sunrise and sunset; or
  • is a tug assisting another vessel while attached to it by a tow line; or
  • is engaged in a log sorting or yarding operation that is carried out at a booming ground and that does not use lines or chains.

If the vessel does not return to port at night to allow time for rest, at least two persons who hold the certificate required to operate the vessel must be on board to meet the requirements for the deck watch, in addition to any other personnel required to meet minimum crew requirements.

If you need help in determining the manning requirements for your vessel, contact the nearest Transport Canada Centre (see Appendix 2).




Crew Certification

Certification that shows that a crew has at least the minimum level of training required is mandatory for all non-pleasure vessel crews in three areas:

  1. First aid – At least one crew member must hold a valid certificate in marine basic first aid while a vessel is engaged on a Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2 or Sheltered Waters Voyage. A valid marine advanced first aid course is required for vessels engaged on a Near Coastal Voyage, Class 1. In some cases, a first aid training course (2 days as a minimum) recognized by a province or territory is acceptable. For more information refer to Ship Safety Bulletin 03/2009:Training Requirements For the Person Designated to Provide First Aid on Board a Vessel and Period of Validity of First Aid Training Courses Recognized By a Province or Territory, Marine First Aid and Marine Medical Care Training Certificates.
  2. Operator competency – The operator of the vessel must be certified at the appropriate level, or higher, for the size and type of vessel and the voyage that is being undertaken. See Table 4-1 for the level of certification required and when it will be necessary.
  3. Basic safety training – The owner and operator must make sure that all crew members receive on board familiarization and safety training before they start to perform any assigned function (see Section 4-Marine Emergency Duties Training Program - TP4957). Unless the level of operator competency required is a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), each crew member must also obtain a certificate in basic safety training, also known as MED or Marine Emergency Duties, at the level shown in Table 4-1 before completing six months of sea service.

Table 4-1, below, shows, by vessel type, size in gross tonnage (GT) and length in metres (m), and voyage class, the minimum requirements for competency for the vessel operator (shown in *blue) as well as the marine emergency duties training requirements (shown in +red) for each person required to be on board in order to meet the requirements for the minimum complement set out in the Marine Personnel Regulations.

Table 4-1: *Operator Competency / +Marine Emergency Duties (MED) Training Requirements
Vessel Near Coastal, Class 1 Near Coastal, Class 2 Sheltered Waters
More than 2 Sheltered Waters nautical miles from shore 2 nautical miles or less from shore
Passenger-Carrying Vessels 4 More than 5 GT

*Master 150 GT (Domestic)

*(if endorsed for limited, contiguous waters)

+MED BST

*Limited Master < 60 GT +MED A1, A2 or A3
Less than or equal
5 GT and either:
• more than 8 m; or
• more than 6 passengers

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

No more than 6
passengers and
no more than 8 m
PCOC 5
Workboats More than 5 GT

*Master 150 GT (Domestic)

*(if endorsed for limited, contiguous waters)

+MED BST

*Limited Master < 60 GT +MED A1, A2 or A3
Less than or equal 5 GT and more than 8 m (except tugs)

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

*SVOP

+MED A1, A2 or A3

No more than 8 m (except tugs) PCOC 5
Tugs *Limited Master < 60 GT +MED A1, A2 or A3
This table is for easy reference only. If different from the Marine Personnel Regulations, the regulations shall prevail.

Operator Competency Certificates for Small Commercial Vessels:

PCOC – Pleasure Craft Operator Card
SVOP – Small Vessel Operator Proficiency
Limited Master < 60 GT
Master 150 GT (Domestic)


Marine Emergency Duties (MED) Training

MED Basic Safety Training (BST) – STCW (Standard for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) Basic Safety
MED A1 – Basic Safety
MED A2 – Small Passenger Vessel Safety
MED A3 – Small Non-Pleasure Vessel Basic Safety
PCOC – Pleasure Craft Operator Card

Refer to TP 10655, 4957, 14692, 13008




Small Vessel Machinery Operator (SVMO)

The Small Vessel Machinery Operator (SVMO) or Small Vessel Machinery Operator – Restricted6 (SVMO-R) is the minimum Marine Engineer Certificate required for passenger vessels that have propulsive power from 75 to 749 kW and do not go beyond a Limited Near Coastal Voyage, Class 27 . To learn what a Small Vessel Machinery Operator must know, refer to the Small Vessel Machinery Operator Examination Study Guide (TP 14814).

The SVMO is also acceptable for:

  • passenger vessels with propulsive power from 750 to 1499 kW; and
  • workboats with propulsive power from 750 to 1999 kW

on voyages that last less than 6 hours and are either a Limited Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2 or a Sheltered Waters Voyage, if all the following conditions are met:

  1. the vessel drives with at least two engines that allow for continued thrust and steering if one engine fails;
  2. the engine and all required gauges, alarms, and emergency features are controlled from the bridge;
  3. radio contact is maintained with the home base at all times;
  4. the Small Vessel Machinery Operator carries out set checks and tests before each departure;
  5. maintenance is carried out:
    1. according to a schedule that meets the main engine manufacturer's recommendations, and
    2. by a marine engineer who holds at least a Fourth-Class Marine Engineer Certificate or by a service firm that is accredited by the main engine manufacturer and with which the owner has entered into a maintenance contract schedule; and
  6. records of the pre-departure procedures are kept on board or at home port if the vessel travels less than 5 nautical miles from its home port.

If the voyage goes beyond these limits or the vessel has greater propulsive power, refer to sections 218-226 of the Marine Personnel Regulations.

Converting to kilowatts

If you know your propulsive power in horsepower, multiply total horsepower by 0.746 to convert to kilowatts.

Examples: 100 hp ≈ 75 kW, 1006 hp ≈ 750 kW

Dual Capacity Operator and Marine Engineer

No person may act as both operator and engineer on a vessel that exceeds 20 metres in registered length. If your vessel is not more than 20 metres long, a person holding a Master's Certificate and a Marine Engineer's Certificate appropriate to the power rating of the main engines can act in both roles if:

  • the engine can be controlled from the helm;
  • engine problems can be easily detected and fixed from the steering station while keeping a navigational lookout; and
  • there is another crew member on board, who is at least 18 years of age, that can help if there is an emergency.



Proving Proficiency

The safety of your vessel, crew, and passengers depends on knowing safety procedures and using safety equipment quickly and properly when needed.

Transport Canada inspectors or its enforcement partners may check that your crew's certification meets requirements at any time. Inspectors may also test your crew's ability to respond efficiently in distress situations by asking questions related to safety, emergency, and survival procedures or by requiring a test voyage to show how well they:

  • know navigation rules, local conditions and hazards;
  • operate the vessel;
  • use safety equipment;
  • follow specific operating and emergency procedures; and
  • fill other safety-related roles and responsibilities.

Obtaining Certificates and Qualifications

To get a Pleasure Craft Operator Card you must pass a test, and Transport Canada recommends that you take a boating safety course before you take it. The course covers a full range of basic boating topics such as:

  • the safety equipment required on board your boat;
  • the Canadian Buoyage system;
  • the Rules of the Road (how to share the waterways);
  • the regulations that apply to you; and
  • how to respond in emergency situations.

Tests can be taken from accredited course providers, who are listed on the Transport Canada Marine Safety website.

Courses in Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP) and Marine Emergency Duties (MED) are also available and training certificates are issued to people who pass these courses. You can consult the list of Approved Training Courses (TP 10655) online.

If you want a Master or Marine Engineer Certificate, you must pass a written and oral exam that covers subjects related to the type of vessel and where you will operate it. Please consult the nearest Transport Canada Centre to determine the requirements that apply in your case (see Appendix 2).

Requirements - Master, Limited, Vessel less than 60 gross tonnage

To apply for a certificate of competency as Master, Limited, for a vessel of less than 60 gross tonnage, you must have:

  1. At least two months of sea service on board one or more vessels of a gross tonnage at least equivalent to that of the vessel for which the certificate is sought, on voyages that correspond to those permitted by the certificate being applied for.
  2. Valid Marine Medical Certificate (if a passenger-carrying vessel) prescribed by the Marine Personnel Regulations, Part II, Division 8.
  3. (a) Passenger-carrying vessels:

    • Marine Emergency Duties (MED) with respect to Small Passenger Vessel Safety; or
    MED with respect to basic safety and MED with respect to small seasonal passenger vessel safety (certificated personnel); or
    MED with respect to small seasonal passenger vessel safety (certificated personnel) and MED with respect to small seasonal passenger vessel safety (non-certificated personnel).

    (b) Non-passenger vessels: Marine Emergency Duties with respect to Basic Safety or pass a practical examination on MED using the vessel's emergency equipment.

  4. Marine Basic First Aid training certificate.
  5. An appropriate radio operator certificate issued under the Radiocommunication Act if the vessel is equipped with a VHF radiotelephone installation.
  6. A written examination on subject matter appropriate to the area of operation and the type and gross tonnage of the vessel to which the certificate relates as set out in The Examination and Certification of Seafarers (TP 2293).
  7. A practical examination on board the vessel.

A Master, Limited, certificate is valid for five years beginning on its issue date and only within the voyage area and on the vessels named on it.

Requirements - Small Vessel Machinery Operator

An applicant for a Small Vessel Machinery Operator certificate must meet the following requirements:

  1. have acquired at least two months of qualifying service as follows8:
    1. at least 1 month of sea service as an engineer or a rating performing engine-room duties on one or more motor vessels; and
    2. any remaining time in any combination of the types of service set out in item 2 of the table to subsection 147(1) of the Marine Personnel Regulations;
  2. hold an MED training certificate with respect to small passenger vessel safety;
  3. hold a certificate for marine basic first aid;
  4. pass a written examination on general engineering knowledge of small vessels;
  5. pass an oral examination on general engineering knowledge of small vessels, if applying for an unrestricted certificate;
  6. pass a practical examination on board the vessel for which the certificate is sought, if applying for the restricted certificate.

A Small Vessel Machinery Operator certificate is valid for five years from its issue date.




Radio Certification Requirements

The Marine Personnel Regulations require that persons in charge of a radio watch on vessels that are required to be fitted with a very high frequency (VHF) radio (see Communication Equipment in Chapter 10) hold one of the following:

  • Restricted Operator Certificate with Maritime Qualification;
  • General Operator Certificate; or
  • Restricted Operator's Certificate (ROC-MC).

For vessels that must have a VHF radio with Digital Selective Calling (VHF-DSC) that are on a voyage other than a Sheltered Waters Voyage, the person in charge of the radio watch must have a Restricted Operator's Certificate (ROC-MC) except where the vessel is on a Near Coastal Voyage, Class 2 and the VHF-DSC radio is the vessel's only radio. In this case, the person must hold a Restricted Operator Certificate with Marine Qualification that was issued after January 1, 2005.

Occupational Health and Safety Training

Every vessel owner and operator must provide all information, instruction, training, and supervision needed to protect the health and safety of crew members. This includes training related to the vessel's safety policy and procedures. Employees must be made aware of foreseeable hazards and the steps they should take to avoid accidents and injury.

Most vessels that operate only within the limits of a province will have employees that are covered by that province's health and safety legislation. Vessels with employees that are covered by federal health and safety legislation will fall under Part 2 of the Canada Labour Code and the Marine Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Safe Working Practices Regulations apply to all vessels (see Chapter 13 for more details).

More Information

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



4. A training certificate in marine emergency duties with respect to small seasonal passenger vessel safety (non-certificated personnel) is acceptable for crew members that are not required to hold a certificate if the vessel is a passenger-carrying vessel that operates only between March 31 and December 1 on a sheltered waters voyage, provided it does not have berthed accommodations and it is not a ferry. ^
5. Where a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) meets the requirements for operatory competency, it also meets the training requirements for marine emergency duties. ^
6. Valid only on the vessel(s) listed on the certificate. ^
7. The limits are determined when the certificate is issued. ^
8. If applying for a Small Vessel Machinery Operator - Restricted certificate for use on board a passenger carrying vessel that has a propulsive power of less than 750 kW that carries out only Limited Near Coastal Voyages, Class 2 or Sheltered Waters Voyages, the requirements for qualifying sea service may be replaced with
(a) successful completion of training related to the propulsion system and safety systems fitted on the vessel; or
(b) accumulation of at least 10 days of sea service performing engine-room duties on the vessel or a vessel of the same class. ^

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