Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions about all aspects of Canadian safe boating laws and regulations. If you have a question you would like to see added to this list, send an e-mail to [email protected] with your question.

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 when?

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 motor.

Q. In which provinces is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card valid?

A. The card is valid in each province; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia (BC), Prince Edward Island (PEI), Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador (NFLD).

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.If your boat is mostly operated or kept in Canada and is powered by one or more motors adding up to 10 hp (7.5 kW) or more, it must be licensed, unless it is registered. You will also need to license dinghies or tenders you carry aboard or tow behind a larger boat. You must keep a copy of the licence on board.

As of November 1, 2010, to get your free pleasure craft licence, you must mail the following documents to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre:

  1. a completed application form;
  2. proof of vessel ownership; and
  3. a signed copy of a valid piece of government-issued identification. (Further information is available on the form.)

Application forms are available online at, or for pickup in person through your local Service Canada Centre. For Service Canada locations, visit

Q. Do I need a driver's license to operate a watercraft?

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 powered watercraft.

Q. What is the fine for operating without your card?

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)

A. Some of the common boating offences and associated fines are:

  • 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. Is there an age exemption clause?

A. No, there is no age exemption – this law applies to all operators, regardless of age.

Q. Is there a grandfather clause?

A. Yes, persons who have taken a boating safety course prior to the year 1999 may be exempt from having to take their boater exams.

Q. I have a sailboat. Do I need an Operator Card?

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.The certification requirements for operators and crew on workboats depends on a number of factors such as what the vessel is being used for (e.g. commercial fishing, water taxi, harbour tour), where it is being operated (e.g. close to shore or far from shore), and how many passengers are being carried on board. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card is acceptable in some work situations. To find out the certification and crewing requirements for your work situation, check with authorities at any Transport Canada Marine Safety Examination Centre.

Q. What if I have already taken a boating course?

A. If you have already taken a Marine Safety Course recognized by Transport Canada, then you may be exempt from writing the exam.

Q. What if I don’t live in Canada, but boat there?

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 children?

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.

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 another province.

Q. Where can I boat with the Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

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.