Owners and operators of pleasure craft are required to obtain certain documentation, which depends on the type and size of the boat and the power of the engine. Basic information is provided below, with general information about boating safety and the Safe Boating Guide available from Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety, or you can call the Safe Boating line at 1-800-267-6687.

Operator Card (PCOC)
The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations require operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes to have proof of competency on board at all times. Proof of competency can take 1 of 3 forms: (1) A Pleasure Craft Operator Card; (2) Proof of having successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada prior to April 1, 1999; or (3) A completed rental-boat safety checklist. For more information visit Transport Canada: Pleasure Craft Operators.

Boat Licence Number
A pleasure craft licence provides a unique identification number-commonly referred to as the “licence number”-that owners must display on a recreational vessel’s bow, as required under the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Owners must either license or register all recreational vessels powered by engines of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more, regardless of where they operate them in Canada. Law enforcement and search and rescue officials use the licence number to help trace a pleasure craft to its owner. Delivery of Pleasure Craft Licensing is available at Service Canada Counters. For more information visit Service Canada – Pleasure Craft Licences.

Safety Compliance Notice
The Safety Compliance Notice is a label affixed to a boat to indicate that it meets Canada’s Construction Standards for Small Vessels and it may include maximum capacity and other important construction information.

Safety Equipment and Preparation
All boats are required to carry safety equipment, depending on the type and size of the boat. All equipment should be checked regularly, be well maintained, and replaced if necessary. There are standard procedures that all boaters should be aware of and implement before every departure, including preparation of a trip/rescue Plan, acquisition of appropriate marine charts, weather forecast checks, equipment checks, and safe fuelling. Each type of boating activity has its own body of knowledge and set of procedures to be followed for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Boating Regulations
Under Canada Customs regulations, the master of each vessel arriving from a foreign port or destination must report immediately to customs upon arrival in Canada. Only the master is permitted to go ashore to make the report. All passengers, merchandise and baggage must remain on board until released. Failure to comply with Customs law could result in penalties or seizure of your vessel. Remember that handguns, pistols, automatic firearms, and personal protection devices including stun guns, mace and pepper spray are prohibited entry into Canada.

CANPASS – Private Boats program
The CANPASS program operated by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) allows CANPASS permit holders who wish to enter Canada aboard private boats from the United States to receive pre-authorized customs clearance. The boat operator may call CANPASS up to four hours prior to arrival in Canada and must provide details regarding the trip, the passengers, the crew and the boat. CANPASS permits are valid for five years and are not transferable. All travellers aboard the boat, including the crew, have to be the CANPASS program members. There is a fee for each applicant 18 years of age or older.

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • be citizens or permanent residents of Canada, or citizens or resident aliens of the US
  • have no criminal record (or have been granted a pardon)
  • have had no record of a customs seizure within the past five years
  • have never been charged with a violation of customs or immigration legislation
  • be admissible to Canada under immigration laws
  • other criteria may apply

Contact and Application Information:
General Inquiries: 1-888-CANPASS (1-888-226-7277) (Reporting of arrival)
General Inquiries: 1-800-461-9999 (Border Information Service)
TTY: 1-800-665-0354
Website and Application Form: Service Canada – CANPASS

Boats, motors and boat trailers may only be left in Canada during the off-season if you are having maintenance or repair work done on them at a bona fide marina. An E99 permit enables you to leave your boat at a marina while you travel in Canada.

Canadian Coast Guard
The Canadian Coast Guard enforces regulations for all boaters. Children under the age of 16 may not operate powerboats, not even under adult supervision. Proof of operator competency will soon be required for all powered craft, including personal watercraft. For information, contact the Canadian Coast Guard.

Boating and Alcohol
Operating a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs is not just dangerous, it is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Some boaters are not aware of this fact. Others, unfortunately, simply choose to ignore it. Being in control of a boat is like being in control of a car…. You have to be responsible. You can be charged if a police officer believes your ability to operate a vessel has been impaired by alcohol or drugs, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is below .08%. The penalties in B.C. are as follows:

  • 1st Offence : At least a $600 fine
  • 2nd Offence : At least 14 days imprisonment
  • 3rd Offence : At least 90 days imprisonment
  • There is no limit to the fines; the lowest is $600
  • If someone is injured or killed, the sentence may exceed 10 years imprisonment.
  • Insurance may not cover you

Canadians will lose their driver’s licence or be prohibited from operating a vessel for 3 months, depending on the charge. You will also have a criminal record that could prevent you from being bonded or will bar you from travel to many countries.

Boating Violations
The following boating offences are also in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • Operating a boat in a manner that is dangerous to the public.
  • Operating a vessel while impaired by drugs
  • Not keeping watch of a person in tow (water-skiers, etc)
  • Towing a person after dark
  • Knowingly operating an unseaworthy vessel
  • Sending a false message (i.e.: false distress calls)
  • Interfering with any marine signal by tying the boat to a navigation signal, buoy, or other sea-mark used for navigation purposes.
  • Wilfully altering, removing, or concealing a signal, buoy or other seamark used for navigation purposes.

Radio Communications Equipment
If you have an American operator’s licence, you may use your aircraft, marine or amateur radio while visiting Canada. All other types of radio transmitting stations may only be used in Canada if accompanied by a letter of registration from Industry Canada’s Radio Regulatory and Broadcasting Branch 613-998-3372.