Sailing and Boating in Canada

Information on the rules on boat licences and sailing competency requirements, the sea safety recommendations and more, with details of how to buy or import a boat...

Find below information on who to call in the case of an emergency at sea, how to contact the boating authorities, the safety guidelines to follow, how to licence or register a boat, proof of competency requirements, how to buy or import a boat and what to do when arriving in Canada by recreational boat.

Emergencies at Sea

The Canadian Coast Guard provides emergency and search and rescue service to the waters off the coast of Canada. There are three Canadian Joint Rescue Co-ordination centres (JRCCs) located in Victoria, Trenton and Halifax.

  • JRCC Victoria
    Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre Victoria (JRCC Victoria)
    24-hour emergency number Tel: 1 800 567 5111 (toll-free within region) / 250 363 2333
    Fax: 250 363 2944
  • JRCC Trenton
    24-hour emergency number Tel: 1 800 267 7270 (toll-free within Canada) / 613 965 3870
    Fax: 613 965 7190
  • JRCC Halifax
    24-hour emergency number Tel: 1 800 565 1582 (toll-free within region) / 902 427 8200
    Fax: 902 427 2114
  • Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety provides information on how to deal with boating emergencies: Click here

General Boating Authorities

Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety administers programmes to reduce safety risks and environmental impacts of boating.

  • Transport Canada
    : 330 Sparks Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0N5
    Tel: 613 990 2309 / Toll free 1 866 995 9737
    Fax: 613 954 4731

Transport Canada provides a Safe Boating Guide outlining regulations and safety and emergency information for Canadian boaters.

The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and municipal police have authority to enforce boating laws.


Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety provides safety information for recreational boaters, including:

Licensing and Registration

Pleasure craft (for example motor boats, jet skis and sailboats with motors), used in the waters off Canada must be licensed OR registered.

A pleasure craft is a vessel that:

  • Is used for recreation
  • Does not carry paying passengers
  • Has a motor of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more

Pleasure craft licences are free and are obtained by applying to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre. Licences are issued by Transport Canada. The licence number must be painted on the bow of the vessel and a copy of the licence must be carried in the vessel at all times.

Detailed information on applying for a Pleasure Craft Licence is available from Transport Canada.

  • Boating Safety InfoLine Tel: 1 800 267 6687

Registration is a title system for ownership of vessels.

  • Vessels other than a pleasure craft must be registered
  • Owners of a pleasure craft may register their vessels on a voluntary basis
  • If a boat is registered, a Pleasure Craft Licence is not required
  • Detailed information on registering a vessel is available from Transport Canada: Click here

Proof of Competency

All operators of a pleasure craft must carry proof of competency on board. Proof of competency indicates the boater has a basic level of boating safety knowledge required for safe recreational boating.

Proof of competency can be any of the following:

  • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card, the most common proof, obtained after passing an accredited boating safety test
  • Proof of having passed a boating safety course in Canada before 1 April, 1999
  • A specified marine certificate. This can be any of the certificated listed on the Transport Canada website: Click here
  • A rental-boat safety checklist - only valid for the rental period)
  • For foreign visitors, an operator card or equivalent which meets the requirements of their own state or country.
    • For further information for foreign visitors: Click here

Buying a Boat

Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety provides information on buying a boat.

New boats must have:

  • A Hull Serial Number (HIN)
  • A Transport Canada compliance note, certifying that the boat meets construction standards
  • For more information from Transport Canada: Click here

Importing a Boat

Canadian citizens importing a boat from another country into Canada must declare the boat to the Canada Border Services Agency when entering the country and pay all applicable duty and taxes.

Visitors and temporary residents may temporarily import private boats for personal use.

  • For further information on importing a boat: Click here

Coming to Canada on a Recreational Boat

Recreational boats arriving in Canada from another country must follow certain procedures to comply with Canadian law.

The master of a recreational boat is the person responsible for the vessel, its passengers, and its cargo. When arriving in Canada from another country, the master is required to go to a designated telephone reporting marine site and call the telephone reporting centre

  • To find designated telephone reporting marine sites, Tel: 1 888 226 7277

The master must provide specific information about the passengers and cargo and no one except the master may leave the boat until the Canada Border Services Agency gives authorisation.