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Boating License in Canada – Frequently Asked Questions

If you wish to enjoy boating in the Canadian waters, here are a few Frequently Asked Questions, otherwise known as FAQs, regarding Boat License in Canada for you. We recommend that you go through these to avoid any run-ins with the Canadian Boating Laws and Regulations.

boat license Canada

Question #1: Who is required to obtain a PCOC or a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

Answer: Every person (read boater) who wishes to operate a powered watercraft, including watercraft fitted with any size of motor, must have a PCOC, irrespective of the age factor.

Question #2: PCOC is valid in which of the provinces?

Answer: PCOC is valid throughout Canada, i.e., Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island.

Question #3: Is there any difference between a PCOC and a Pleasure Craft License?

Answer: Yes. PCOC is for the person driving the boat whereas a Pleasure Craft License is for the vessel itself according to the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act.

Question #4: Do you need a license to drive a boat in Canada?

Answer: No. You do not need a driver’s license. However, you must have a PCOC with you onboard while driving a powered boat in Canada.

Question #5: Are there any exceptions or grandfather clauses?

Answer: Yes. If you had taken a Canadian Boater safety course before April 1, 1999, and completed it, the same will be recognized (as proof of competency), and as such you will not need to go through it again.

Question #6: Will I need a boat operating license to operate my sailboat?

Answer: As mentioned earlier, if you have an auxiliary engine fitted in your boat, you must have a boating license to operate it.

Question #7: Will I need a PCOC even if I don’t live in Canada but have a boat there?

Answer: In such a case you will require a Pleasure Craft License for your vessel. You will need the PCOC only if you wish to operate your boat in the Canadian waters.

Question #8: Do the rules & regulations apply to non-residents?

Answer: If you are a non-resident and operate a powered boat (including a chartered or rented one):

    • For less than 45 days, the regulations will not apply to you. However, you need to have a proof of residence on you at all times.
    • For more than 45 days, the regulations will apply to you. As a proof of competency, the following will be considered valid –
      • A Canadian PCOC,
      • A boat rental safety checklist (completed)
      • Any other equivalent that meets the requirements of your country or state.

Question #9: What are the horsepower restrictions according to the age?

Answer: The horsepower restrictions apply in the following manner:

Age Limit Regulation
Below 12 years Can operate a vessel with no more than 10 hp without direct supervision of a person above 16 years of age
12 to 16 years Can operate a vessel with no more than 40 hp without direct supervision of a person above 16 years of age
Below 16 years Regardless of supervision, cannot operate a Powered Watercraft
16 years and above Can operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC) without supervision and horsepower restrictions.

Question #10: What are the fines for Operating a boat while being impaired?

Answer: Boating while impaired, i.e., driving a boat under the influence of alcohol is an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada which is punishable in the manner given below:

  • 1st Offence – Not less than $1000 as fine
  • 2nd Offence – Imprisonment of not less than 30 days
  • 3rd Offence – Imprisonment of not less than 120 days
  • It becomes applicable to a person driving a boat with more than 80 ml of alcohol per 100 ml blood.

Question #11: What if I wish to rent a boat?

Answer: If you do not have a proof of competency, yet wish to drive a rental boat, you can complete their boat safety checklist to meet their requirements. However, you must note that it will serve as the proof only during the rental period.

Question #12: What are the Boating Offences in Canada and the associated fines?

Answer: The following table summarizes the boating offenses and related penalties:

Boating Offence Fine
Operating a vessel regardless of the age restrictions $ 250
Not having proof of competency on board $ 250
Not having the required license on board $ 250
Operating a watercraft without due care for others $ 350
Having safety equipment on board which is not readily accessible or not in good working condition $ 200
Operating a vessel without enough life jackets on board $ 200
Operating a vessel in an unsafe manner $ 500

These are a few of the FAQs regarding Canada Boating License. If you still have any queries concerning obtaining a boat license in Canada, please contact us. We will help you out!