man driving a forklift
The Basics of Getting a Forklift License in Canada
October 21, 2022
Truck Driving
Our Guide to Prepping For Truck Driving School
November 1, 2022

What You Need to Know About Operating a Boat in Canada

boat driving

It’s likely that there are different rules for boating, their licensing, and more, depending on where you are. If you are in Canada or going to Canada to try boating, you might ask yourself if you need a license to drive a boat in Canada.

Read on to find out more about this topic:

You are going to need a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or PCOC. To obtain a PCOC, you must successfully complete a boating safety course and pass a test. Once you have your PCOC, you are allowed to operate any pleasure craft in Canada that is fitted with a motor, regardless of the size of the motor.

Do You Need a Boat Licence or Registration?

In order to boat in Canada, you must first obtain a licence or registration. This is most commonly done for pleasure boats, and is valid for the lifetime of the boat. If you are buying a used boat, you must transfer the licence and pay provincial taxes on the purchase price of the boat. Having separate bills of sale for trailers or removable accessories can make paying taxes and fees easier (and less expensive).

There is no universal boat licensing system, so it’s important to research the requirements in your area. In some cases, you may need to obtain a licence from the local authorities in order to operate your boat. In other cases, registration with a local boating association may be sufficient. In either case, it’s important to make sure you are familiar with the rules and regulations governing boat operations in your area.

What Is a Pleasure Craft Licence?

The Pleasure Craft Licensing System is a database of unique identifiers and contact information for boats used for recreation. The system is available to government agencies and police to identify a boat in an emergency, assist in search and rescue efforts, and enforce pleasure craft regulations. The system is not intended as a legal proof of ownership, but as a way to update information on boats after changes such as a change of owner or boat color. Licence renewal every 10 years is another opportunity to update information.

If you want to transfer the licence of a used boat, you can do it for free. You have 90 days to do it.

In order to obtain a Pleasure Craft Licence (PCL) for your boat, you must meet the requirements listed in the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act. A summary of these requirements can be found on Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety website. Once you have met the requirements, you can obtain a PCL from the province in which you license your boat. The PCL will provide your boat with a licence number (at no cost). The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is often referred to as a licence, but it is not – it’s a form of proof you have the competency to operate a boat. If you are looking for information about Canadian vessel registration, which is used mostly by commercial vessels, you can find it on Transport Canada’s website. Vessel registration is a more complicated procedure and involves additional costs.

Are There Exemptions to the PCOC Rule?

This means that anyone who wants to operate a recreational motorized boat needs to prove that they are competent. There are no exceptions based on age, the power of the boat, or the length of the boat.

The rules above also count for indigenous people, though not if the vessel is being used for things like everyday living or subsistence activities (like hunting and fishing, which many indigenous people do).

Non-residents operating a non-Canadian registered vessel in Canada are not required to have proof of competency for up to 45 days. However, if they operate a Canadian-registered vessel in Canada, they must have proof of competency on board at all times and also carry proof of residency on board.


Hopefully, this guide helps you prepare for your boating adventure in Canada. If you have more questions about boat driving licence, you can consult a reputable driving school that can guide you. 

Sprint Driving School can provide you with a boat driving licence in Toronto. Contact us to know more!