Pleasure Craft Operator Card – Canada


Port, Starboard, Stern
Port, Starboard, Stern

Canada has:

  • The longest coastline in the world, with over 243,000 kilometres in coastline. Stretched out as a continuous line, it would circle the equator more than six times.
  • The world’s largest freshwater system — the country’s 2 million lakes and rivers cover 7.6 per cent of the land mass (755,000 square kilometres).
  • Canada’s Ferry services, carry about 40 million passengers and 17 million vehicles in Canada each year.
  • Canadians love the water and enjoy recreational boating, as do tourists who come to Canada to enjoy the country’s nature and beauty. According to Transport Canada, there are more than 100 recreational boating deaths in Canada a year.

    The Federal Government’s ten (10) year federal phase-in period to allow boat enthusiasts to participate in an examination in order to get their boating licence (formally referred to as a “Pleasure Craft Operator Card”) ended as of September 14, 2010. Effective September 15, 2010 it doesn’t matter what age you are, if you operate a boat (a motor of any size – that is powered by fuel or electricity) you will need the Card(as of April 1, 1999 a personal watercraft must be operated by someone who is at least 16 years old).

    You can take the multiple choice examination online and upon receiving a 75% pass, on the 36 questions posed, you can print the temporary card (which can accompany you on your boat) and a permanent card will be sent to you. The Card doesn’t have an expiration date and must carry the boater when they are operating a pleasure craft. If this licence doesn’t accompany the boater, they can be subjected to a heft fine of $250.00.

    Boaters scramble to obtain mandatory operator cards (see the story in the Star)

    According to Transport Canada – I to 3 million boaters have not yet passed their tests, despite the fact that the 10 year phase-in period concluded in September 2010.

    When marine police officers conduct boat safety checks this summer and fall, they will require boaters to produce their pleasure craft operator cards. Cards will be mandatory, at the risk of a fine of at least $250, for almost all Canadian operators of motorized pleasure boats.

    Because Canadians need never have set foot in a boat to obtain their cards, because renters are not required to get cards, because cards can never be revoked, and because the test can be taken online, critics say the system is a cash grab that does not actually improve boater safety.

    Pleasure Craft Licence:

    A pleasure craft licence is the set of identification numbers displayed on a pleasure craft.

    You must display the licence number above the waterline on both sides of your pleasure craft in block characters that:

    * are at least 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) high; and

    * in a colour that contrasts with the colour of the bow.

    The Small Vessel Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, require all pleasure craft powered by an engine 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) or more to have a pleasure craft licence, unless they have a vessel registration.

    You must carry a copy of your Pleasure Craft Licence on board.

    A Pleasure Craft Licence is different from a Vessel Registration. Check the Vessel Registration Office website for more information on registering your pleasure craft.

    Pleasure craft licences are free.

    Recent amendments to the Small Vessel Regulations have resulted in the following changes to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Process:

    • Owners of licensed pleasure craft now have up to 90 days from the date of purchase to transfer a pleasure craft licence. During which time you may continue to operate your pleasure craft with the existing licence and a copy of the transfer documents onboard.
    • Pleasure craft licences are valid for a period of 10 years. If there are changes to your name or address in that time, you must update your licence by applying to Service Canada.

    Service Canada delivers Pleasure Craft Licensing at all of their offices across Canada.

    The Pleasure Craft Licensing system allows Search and Rescue personnel to access the information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the event of an emergency. This could mean the difference between life and death!

    Here are some additional links to Service Canada with regard to frequently asked questions about Pleasure Craft Licences:

    Application Information

    • What types of boats do I need to license?
    • I just bought a new boat. How do I license it?
    • How do I update the information on my pleasure craft licence?
    • How do I license a new boat that I bought in the United States?
    • How do I license a boat I built myself?
    • I just bought a used boat. How do I transfer the licence to my name?
    • How do I license a previously unlicensed pleasure craft?
    • I am selling my boat. How do I transfer the licence?
    • How do I replace a lost pleasure craft licence?


    • What forms do I need to apply for a pleasure craft licence?

    Financial Information

    • Do I have to pay a fee to obtain a pleasure craft licence?

    Contact Information

    Related Information

    The tests are provided by private companies, not the government. A list of accredited test providers can be found at this link .

    From Transport Canada:

    Pleasure Craft Operators

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Course Providers Database

    List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates and other Equivalencies as Proof of Competency when Operating a Pleasure Craft

    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.

    The operator card is good-for-life.

    These requirements are being phased in over ten years.

    Date at which proof of competency is required *

    How this applies to operators** of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes:

    • All operators born after April 1, 1983, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 1999.
    • All operators of craft under 4 m in length, including personal watercraft, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 2002.
    • All operators, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 2009.

    * These requirements apply in areas outside the Northwest and Nunavut Territories at this time.

    ** Applies to non-residents operating their pleasure craft in Canadian waters after 44 consecutive days. Operator card or equivalent issued to a non-resident by their state or country will be considered as proof of competency.

    If you hold any certificate on the List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates and other Equivalencies as Proof of Competency when Operating a Pleasure Craft, you already meet the requirements of the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations – you just need to make sure you carry your certificate on board. Proof of certification may include original documentation or a copy of the certificate.

    Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations

    Offences and Associated Fines

    Here is a list of some boating offences along with the associated fines.

    Boating Offence———————————————————-$$Fine$$*

    Allowing someone under age (under 16) to operate a boat ———- $ 250.00

    Not having the required proof of competency on board ————- $ 250.00

    Not having the required Pleasure Craft Licence on board ———– $ 250.00

    Not having enough approved lifejackets on board ——————- $ 200.00

    Careless operation ————————————————-  $ 200.00

    Speeding ———————————————————-   $ 100.00

    Operating a boat if you are under age (under 16) ——————– $ 100.00

    Operating a boat without a working muffler in good condition ——–$ 100.00

    Towing someone without a spotter ———————————- $ 100.00

    *Not including administrative charges

    You should also know that some boating offences can result in fines to both the operator of the boat as well as to the person who allowed the operation of the boat. An example of this would be allowing someone under the age of 16 to operate your PWC.

    You can find a complete list of boating offences and fines under the Contraventions Regulations by visiting

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