Pleasure Craft Requirements and Safety Information
A pleasure craft is a vessel used only for pleasure, as opposed to commercial or non-pleasure use.
Under the Canada Shipping Act 2001, all pleasure craft operators must meet specific requirements for:
- Licensing, registration and operator competency — having and carrying the proper documents
- Safety equipment — having required tools and equipment onboard
- Boating operations and practices — knowing and following operating rules
You can review the regulations that apply to pleasure craft at the Justice Canada website. They are:
- Boating Restriction Regulations
- Collision Regulations
- Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations
- Pleasure Craft Sewage Pollution Prevention Regulations
- Small Vessel Regulations
Learn more about:
Are you a visitor to Canada who travels our waterways in pleasure craft? Learn how foreign boaters must follow Canada’s rules and regulations when in Canadian waters.
Don’t leave shore without these documents:
All pleasure craft, which are principally maintained and operated in Canada and powered by one or more motors adding up to 7.5 kW (10 hp) or more must be either licensed or registered.
To get a Pleasure Craft Licence, Canadians must complete an application form and mail it along with proof of vessel ownership and a copy of a valid piece of personal identification to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.
Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre
P.O. Box 2006
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5G4
Participating boat dealers can also apply electronically for pleasure craft licences for new boats on behalf of their customers. This allows you to enjoy your new pleasure craft right away!
We no longer require owners to register pleasure craft of 15 gross tons or more (about 12 metres in length or over). However, you may choose to register any size pleasure craft, for a fee. Registration provides important benefits, such as:
- proof of ownership for your boat;
- a unique name and official number for your boat; and
- the right to use your boat as security for a marine mortgage.
Transport Canada's Vessel Registration Office provides registration services. To learn more, call toll-free 1-877-242-8770 or visit the Vessel Registration Office website.
Proof of ownership
Your bill of sale (or statutory declaration) and/or boat registration count as proof of ownership.
Be sure to have proof of ownership of your boat, along with the pleasure craft licence, when entering another country. If you do not have proper documents on board you may be delayed, have trouble clearing customs, or even receive a fine.
- A pleasure craft licence does not prove ownership.
- Transport Canada cannot confirm ownership of a licensed pleasure craft.
If you buy a licensed pleasure craft, recent changes to the Small Vessel Regulations allow you up to 90 days from the date of purchase to transfer it to your name. During this time, you may operate your boat as long as you keep a copy of the dated application for a pleasure craft licence, as well as a copy of the dated proof of ownership (i.e. bill of sale or statutory declaration) on board.
To transfer ownership, the new owner must complete the “Application for a Pleasure Craft Licence” form, and mail it, along with proof of ownership (i.e. bill of sale) and proof of identification, to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre.
All pleasure craft must carry certain documents on board, at all times, based on the date they were built or imported, their size, and other factors. Examples of such documents include:
Copy of pleasure craft licence
Pleasure craft powered by an engine or engines of 7.5 kW (10 hp) or more, which are kept and operated mainly in Canada, must be licensed or registered, regardless of where they operate in Canada.
You must display your pleasure craft licence number:
- above the waterline;
- on both sides of the bow;
- in block characters not less than 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) high; and
- in a contrasting colour to the vessel colour.
Hull Serial Number (HIN)
All pleasure craft manufactured or imported for sale in Canada after August 1, 1981 must be marked with a Hull Serial Number. The manufacturer places the HIN where it is clearly visible when the vessel is in the water:
- on the upper starboard quarter of the outside surface of the transom; or,
- on the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull – if the vessel has no transom.
To learn more about the Hull Serial Number (HIN).
Safety Compliance Notice
The Small Vessel Regulations require pleasure craft less than 24 metres long that are, or can be, fitted with engine(s), to have a Compliance Notice attached where it is plainly visible from the helm. Compliance Notices are the manufacturer or importer’s promise that the vessel meets the construction requirements of the Small Vessel Regulations.
For pleasure craft of no longer than 6 metres, the Compliance Notice must state the maximum safe recommend limits for the boat (number of persons, maximum load and engine power for outboard).
Exceptions: Some exceptions do exist. For example, a compliance notice is not required for a pleasure craft built or imported by an individual for their personal use. To learn more, visit www.boatingsafety.gc.ca.
To learn more on Compliance Notices consult the Transport Canada website at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-paperwork-paperwork_notices-120.htm.
Proof of competency
Anyone operating a pleasure craft fitted with any type of motor must carry proof of competency* on board. Proof of competency shows that the boat operator has a basic level of boating safety knowledge and understands the rules and regulations that apply to pleasure boats in Canada. The most common proof of competency is a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).
Transport Canada accredits private sector Course Providers to deliver boating safety courses and tests and issue PCOCs. You need to pass the accredited boating safety test to receive a PCOC. Transport Canada believes taking a boating safety course is the best preparation for the test. A course, while not required, can help you and your family become more aware of safe boating practices and learn how to reduce risks on and around the water. Other options include home study, online course manuals and tests, and challenge testing.
Proof of competency can also be any of the following:
- a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) – this is the most common proof, obtained after passing an accredited boating safety test;
- proof of having passed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999;
- a specified marine certificate from the List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates and other Equivalencies accepted as Proof of Competency when Operating a Pleasure Craft;
- a completed rental-boat safety checklist - good only for rental period; or
- for foreign visitors, an operator card or equivalent which meets the requirements of their own state or country.
To learn more about proof of competency requirements for pleasure boat operators, visit the Office of Boating Safety website, or call the Boating Safety Infoline at 1-800-267-6687.
* Proof of Competency is not required in the waters of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories at this time.
A sail plan (also referred to as a “trip” or “float” plan) includes information on your intended route and basic details of your vessel. All small boat operators, even for day trips, are encouraged to file one with a responsible person before heading out. Tell the person holding your sail plan to contact the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre if you don’t return on time.
If you cannot file a plan with a responsible person, you can file it with any Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre by telephone, radio, or in person.
Note: Be sure to report that you have returned or completed your trip so that no one reports you missing and launches a search for you.
Recreational boating is very popular in Canada. Nearly one in six households owns at least one boat, whether it is a sailing or fishing boat, outboard motor boat, rowboat or canoe. The Canadian Hydrographic Service has developed special nautical charts for recreational boaters. They will show you if you will encounter any overhead obstacles, bridges, or underwater cables in the area where you will be boating.
Using marine charts can increase safety, decrease the risk of grounding and damaging your boat, and reduce possible damage to the environment. To learn more on marine charts, visit http://www.charts.gc.ca/chs/ or contact the nearest Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Canadian Hydrographic Service office (telephone numbers listed below).
|British Columbia||(250) 363-6358|
|Nova Scotia||(902) 426-3497|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||(709) 772-0449|
You should also visit http://www.notmar.gc.ca/ for Notices to Mariners and other marine publications.
Safe, responsible operation is key to enjoyable pleasure boating. If something goes wrong, having the appropriate safety equipment can save a life.
Depending on the size of your pleasure craft, you must carry some or all of the safety equipment listed below. Know which safety equipment is required for your vessel, and have it onboard. Make sure your equipment is easy to reach and that everyone onboard knows how to use it. Remember, ensuring that all equipment is in good working order is not just common sense, it’s the law.
Pleasure craft involved in an official competition may have alternative safety equipment requirements.
Examples of safety equipment include:
- personal protection equipment such as personal flotation devices (PFDs) or lifejackets;
- boat safety equipment such as buoyant heaving lines, lifebuoys, lifting harnesses, re-boarding devices, oars or paddles, anchors, bailers and manual water pumps, and fire extinguishers;
- distress equipment such as watertight flashlights and flares;
- navigation equipment such as navigation lights, radar reflectors, sound-signalling devices and appliances, towing equipment, charts and publications; and
- other suggested items such as spare clothing in a watertight bag, drinking water and high-energy snacks, tool kits, first aid kits, cellular phones, and a marine radio where applicable.
To learn more about safety equipment requirements and how they apply to you, visit the Office of Boating Safety website.
Marine VHF radio is the most effective and reliable method for marine communication. If you have a marine VHF radio, keep it tuned to channel 16. Know where you are at all times and be prepared to describe your location accurately in an emergency.
In case of grave and imminent danger (for example, your boat is taking on water and you are in danger of sinking or capsizing), use channel 16 and repeat "MAYDAY" three times. Then give the name of your vessel and its position, the nature of your problem, and the type of assistance needed.
If you need assistance but are not in immediate danger (for example, your motor stopped working and you are unable to get back to shore) use channel 16 and repeat "PAN-PAN" three times. Then give the name of your vessel and its position, describe your problem and the type of help you need.
Remember: Use Channel 16 for DISTRESS and CALLING purposes only. If possible, take your conversation to a working frequency once you have called another vessel on channel 16.
Anyone who uses a VHF radio must follow the procedures described in the VHF Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. All VHF radio operators must have a Restricted Operator's Certificate with maritime qualifications. (Canada recognizes the American Certificate. Visitors from a country other than the U.S. should contact Industry Canada for information on requirements.) To learn more about the certificate, visit the Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons website, or contact them toll-free at 1-888-277-2628.
Digital Selective Calling
If you buy a new VHF radio, chose one that it includes the new Digital Selective Calling (DSC) feature on channel 70. You can use DSC to send a Distress Alert (by holding a distress button for five seconds) to advise the Canadian Coast Guard and other boaters in your area that you require immediate assistance. This distress signal can be sent where VHF-DSC services are available. (The Canadian Coast Guard is currently upgrading its facilities to provide DSC channel 70 services. There is currently DSC service available in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.)
To make a digital call or to use the Distress Alert function, each radio must have an identity: a nine-digit Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number. Your owner's manual will tell you more about this feature and how to make a DSC call to another boat or to a shore station that has DSC capability. MMSI numbers are assigned, free of charge, by calling Industry Canada at 1-800-667-3780 or by visiting the Industry Canada website.
If your boat is equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, connect it to your DSC radio. This will ensure that your position is automatically sent when a Distress Alert is transmitted. Rescuers will immediately know your exact location and help will arrive sooner.
To learn more, visit the Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) website.
Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres (MCTS) in certain parts of Canada are connected to the cellular telephone network system. Depending on your cellular service provider, by dialling *16 or #16, you will contact the nearest Canadian Coast Guard MCTS Centre. (Contact your cellular provider to find out if you have access to the *16/#16 service.)
Remember that a cellular phone is not a good substitute for a marine radio, nor is it an approved means of issuing a distress call. Making a call from a cellular phone does not alert other boaters close to you who potentially could be the first ones to help in the event of an emergency. Unlike VHF transmissions, cellular phone signals cannot be followed back to your location by rescuers.
Age restrictions for operating vessels with certain horsepower
Restrictions designed to protect the safety of children, prohibit operators under the age of 16 from operating pleasure craft above specified horsepower (hp) limits:
- Children under the age of 12 may not operate a pleasure craft with more than 7.5 kW (10 hp) without adult supervision.
- Children between 12 years and 16 years of age may not operate a pleasure craft with more than 30 kW (40 hp) without adult supervision.
- Only persons 16 years of age or older can operate a personal watercraft, regardless of supervision.
Mixing Alcohol and boating is far more dangerous than most people realize. Fatigue, sun, wind and the motion of the boat dull senses. Alcohol intensifies these effects, leaving you with reduced reaction time, reduced fine motor skills and impaired judgement. At least 40 per cent of all power-boating fatality victims had a blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit. So it’s simple: don’t “cruise with booze.”
Boating while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code. Convictions, even for a first offence, may result in heavy punishment. Penalties range from a minimum of $1000 to a ban from operating a vessel for up to three years. Operators with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood are liable to the following fines (The maximum sentence may vary from province to province):
- 1st offence: at least $1000 fine;
- 2nd offence: at least 30 days of imprisonment; and
- 3rd offence: at least 120 days of imprisonment.
Provinces and territories have rules that determine when alcohol can be consumed, or how it can be transported on a boat. In most provinces, alcohol may be consumed on board the vessel if it meets certain conditions, such as having:
- the vessel has permanent sleeping facilities;
- the vessel has permanent cooking facilities;
- the vessel has a permanent toilet; and
- the vessel is anchored or secured alongside a dock.
To learn about the restrictions on carrying alcohol on board that apply to your area, check with the appropriate provincial authorities such as the Ontario Provincial Police for Ontario, Sûreté du Québec for Quebec, and the RCMP for all other provinces and territories.
Any enclosed space that contains fuel-burning engines or appliances should be well ventilated. The fuel-burning engines or appliances should also be certified or designed for marine use. Why? Because Carbon monoxide poisoning has caused an alarming number of boating deaths in Canada and the U.S. in recent years.
Carbon monoxide is an inflammable, colourless, odourless, tasteless toxic gas produced during the incomplete combustion of fuel (natural gas, oil, coal, wood, kerosene, etc.) This is a real danger, as a person can die from inhaling carbon monoxide in as little as a few breaths.
Please pay particular attention to these hazards:
- Cooking, heating, or even leaving a motor on idle in an enclosed space can result in a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide. Be extra vigilant if there have been modifications to your vessel such as cabin extensions, the fitting of canvas tops, etc.
- Swimming under swimming platforms mounted on vessels or between the pontoons of houseboats, or any other areas where air circulation may be poor and engine exhaust gases may accumulate can expose you to dangerous fumes.
To keep Canada’s lakes, rivers and costal waters healthy and productive, we must follow good environmental boating practices. That is why no vessels may dump pollutants such as garbage, oil and oil wastes, and hazardous chemicals in any Canadian waters.
Portable toilets are illegal on Ontario waters. The owner of a pleasure craft must ensure that each toilet and holding tank is installed so that:
- the toilet and equipment are connected in such a way that the equipment receives all toilet waste;
- toilet equipment has a deck fitting and the connecting piping necessary for removing toilet waste by shore-based pumping equipment;
- no other means of removing toilet waste from the vessel is used; and
- all parts of the system for removing toilet waste work together and suit the boat.
There are restrictions against pumping sewage into waters within the province of Ontario (see below) and certain designated waters of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. In these areas, a pleasure craft fitted with a toilet must also be fitted with a holding tank. For pleasure craft, sewage may only be discharged at shore pump-out facilities. Discharging sewage into any Canadian waterway may also violate the Fisheries Act.
For other waters, future regulations will come into force on May 17, 2012, and will require pleasure craft to manage sewage. Portable toilets will be allowed but must be secured to the vessel. As well, discharge should be at a minimum of 3 nautical miles from shore.
Maintain a constant lookout
Canada’s Collision Regulations require all vessels to maintain a constant lookout. When operating near large vessels, remember that they have limited visibility, and turning and stopping capabilities. It is important to maintain an all-around lookout at all times and to be prepared to move out of the way of larger vessels.
Clear right-of-way rules exist to help vessels using the same waterways avoid colliding with one another. The rules are described in the Collision Regulations, and you must know them.
The Collision Regulations make operators responsible for maintaining a safe speed that allows for proper and effective action to be taken to avoid collisions. Operators must also proceed at a safe speed in or near an area of restricted visibility, such as entering or exiting a fog bank.
You must know the risks and follow the rules when boating. Canada’s Small Vessel Regulations prohibit the operation of a vessel in a careless or inconsiderate manner. This means that if you are jumping waves or the wake of other vessels unreasonably close, disturbing the peace or causing annoyance, travelling at excessive speed near swimmers, playing chicken, or weaving through congested traffic at high speed, you risk a hefty fine or ending up in front of a judge, or possibly both.
Transport Canada works closely with various partners to increase awareness about safe boating rules. You can do your part by spreading the word. To learn more about how we can work together, visit the Office of Boating Safety website.
Canada's Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations - jointly administered with some provinces and municipalities – set out the restrictions for the operation of small boats on specific bodies of water in Canada, such as speed limits, power limitations, or when and where certain activities, such as waterskiing, are permitted.
When boating in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, please observe the speed limit of 10 km/h (6 mph) within 30 metres (100 ft) of the shore. This limit applies on all waters within these provinces, except coastal waters or where other limits are posted. These provisions do not apply in rivers less than 100 metres (300 ft) in width, canals and buoyed channels, nor in the case of waterskiing, where the towboat launches and drops off skiers by heading directly away from or into the shore.
As of August 19, 2009, two restrictions on navigation in the Columbia Wetlands complex in South Eastern British Columbia came into force. They are:
- a prohibition on the operation of power-driven vessels in the wetlands adjacent to the Columbia River in South Eastern British Columbia; and
- a prohibition on water-skiing in the main channel of the river.
For more information on pleasure craft requirements and how they apply to you:
- visit the Office of Boating Safety website;
- email your questions to email@example.com;
- get your free copy of the Safe Boating Guide;
- refer to other publications on boating safety;
- read the Boating Safety Bulletins;
- keep informed of any equipment recalls (e.g. Personal Flotation Devices, outboard engines);
- call the Boating Safety Infoline at 1-800-267-6687.
If you are using your vessel for commercial or non-pleasure purposes, you must meet certain Canada Shipping Act, 2001 regulations. To learn more about these regulations and how they apply to you, visit Transport Canada's Marine website.
In order for everyone to enjoy Canadian waterways, all recreational boaters - Canadian and foreign - are expected to know and follow the rules. However, some exceptions and variations of these rules have been established for operators that are not Canadian residents, as well as for foreign pleasure craft (pleasure craft that are licensed or registered in a country other than Canada.) To learn more on how Canadian rules apply to non-residents of Canada or operators of foreign vessels, call the Boating Safety Infoline at 1-800-267-6687 or visit the Office of Boating Safety website.
To learn more on the procedures to follow when entering Canada from the United States using a pleasure craft, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website. Visitors from a country other than the United States should also visit the Canada Border Services Agency website. All visitors can call 1-888-226-7277 for more information.
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