The new Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Card system is in full effect and all RESIDENT pleasure boat operators in Canada must possess proof of proficiency to operate a motorized boat.
For a review of much of the information you will be required to know you can visit
Pleasure Boat Exam Review.
Common Questions regarding the new requirements are included below.
Safe Boating Rules & Regulations
Q. Why do boaters now need to have a Pleasure
Craft Operator Card?
A. Recreational boating is a favourite pastime in Canada with between seven and
nine million people enjoying Canadian waterways each year. Sadly, not every
boating excursion is a return trip: Over 200 boating fatalities occur each year
along with an estimated 6,000 non-fatal accidents – most of them preventable.
The general public and pleasure boaters had expressed concern that anyone of any
age could operate a watercraft without having any prior boating experience. The
Pleasure Craft Operator Card regulations are an attempt to reduce the number of
boating related accidents & fatalities. The goal of the program is to encourage
boaters to evaluate their capabilities and limits, to prepare themselves
adequately before heading out, and to be responsible on the water.
Q. Who needs the Pleasure Craft Operator Card and
A. All operators of powered watercraft used for recreational purposes within
Canada require the card as of September 15 2009.
As of September 15, 2009 all boaters are required to have the Pleasure Craft
Operator Card in order to operate a powered watercraft. There is no grandfather
clause or age exemption – this law applies to all boaters. Powered watercraft
includes watercraft fitted with any size motor — even an electric trolling
Q. What is the difference between a Pleasure
Craft Operator Card and a Pleasure Craft License?
A. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card applies to the driver of the boat, while a
Pleasure Craft License applies to the boat itself.
A Pleasure Craft Licence is the number placed on the side of each recreational
vessel as required under the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping
Act. The number is used to assist law enforcement and search and rescue
organizations in identifying each individual pleasure craft.
You can apply for a Pleasure Craft License at any Service Canada Centre across
the country. For the location nearest you, visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca or call
Q. Do I need a driver’s license to operate a
A. No, a driver’s license is not required to operate a watercraft. You do
require your Pleasure Craft Operator Card on board with you while operating a
Q. What is the fine for operating without your
A. Not having the required Pleasure Craft Operator Card or proof of competency
on board = $250 (not including administrative charges).
Q. What are some of the common boating
offences and associated fines? (not including administrative charges)
Not having enough approved lifejackets on board = $200
Careless operation = $200
Speeding = $100
Allowing someone under age to operate a boat = $250
Operating a boat if you are under age = $100
Operating a boat without a working muffle in good condition = $100
Towing someone without a spotter = $100
* Source Transport Canada
Q. How will this law be enforced and by Who?
A. The law will be enforced by peace officers. The law requires that the
operator of a powered watercraft carry his Pleasure Craft Operator Card, as well
as proof of age, with him at all times.
Q. My boat is over 4m. Why should I get the
A. There are many advantages to having the card now, such as:
Without the card, you cannot operate PWC’s or powered boats under 4m (13.1 ft).
This law applies not only to the boats you own, but also to any boats you
operate (such as a friend’s or neighbour’s boat).
You may be eligible for a reduction in marine insurance if you have your
Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Verify with your insurance company
The Card is good for life.
The Card is recognized across Canada.
Q. Is there an age exemption clause?
A. No, there is no age exemption – this law applies to all operators, regardless
Q. Is there a grandfather clause?
A. Yes, if you have previously taken a boating safety course prior to 1999, you
may be exempt from writing the boater exam.
Q. I have a sailboat. Do I need an Operator
A. If you have an auxiliary engine fitted to your sailboat, then you need the
Card. This applies even while you are under sail.
Q. Do aboriginals need to have a Pleasure
Craft Operator Card?
A. Yes, the regulations do apply to aboriginals, however the regulations do not
apply in situations where the craft is used for daily living or subsistence
activities (such as hunting and fishing for the purpose of subsistence).
Q. I operate a boat for work purposes. Do I
need the Card?
A. No. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card is only required by operators of
watercraft being used for recreational purposes. It is common however for many
commercial establishments (such as marinas, and fishing & hunting lodges) to ask
their staff to obtain their Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Q. What if I have already taken a boating
A. If you have already taken a Marine Safety Course recognized by Transport
Canada, then you may be exempt from writing the boater exam. Please click here
for a complete list of recognized certificates and information on how to order
Q. What if I don’t live in Canada, but boat
A. Non-residents only need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card if they are
operating their powered boat in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive
days or if the boat they are operating is registered or licensed in Canada (this
includes rented boats). Boater Education Cards or equivalent certifications are
recognized in Canada. Proper identification should be kept on board at all times
to provide proof of residency.
Q. What about horsepower restriction for
A. The table summarizes how horsepower restrictions apply:
Age Power Restrictions
Under 12 years of age, and not directly supervised Can operate vessels with
under 10 hp
Between 12 years and under 16 years of age, and not directly supervised Can
operate vessels with under 40 hp
Under 16 years of age Not allowed to operate a PWC
16 years of age and over No power restrictions
Q. What if I rent a powerboat or PWC?
A. Currently, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is not required in order to operate
a rented watercraft. Instead, it is sufficient for a renter to complete a rental
safety checklist. Take note however that some companies have made it their
corporate policy to require renters to have their Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Below is a sample copy of a rental safety checklist.
Rental Safety Checklist
Q. Are these laws federal or provincial?
A. The laws governing the Pleasure Craft Operator Card are a federal
requirement, and apply in all provinces. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card obtained
in one province is equivalent to a Pleasure Craft Operator Card obtained in
Q. Where can I boat with the Pleasure Craft
A. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card allows Canadian citizens to operate their
watercrafts recreationally on all Canadian waters where permitted.
The fines for not having your Pleasure Craft Operator Card on board with you
vary province by province; it may be as high as $250. Please check with your
local enforcement detachment for more information.
For a review of much of the information
you will be required to know you can visit
Pleasure Boat Exam Review.
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