Safety On the Water

Know The Regulations

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 is a law that governs the conduct and requirements of all vessels, excluding military vessels.

Many of the regulations that affect pleasure crafts include:

While operating in Canadian Waters, Canada’s Criminal Code also applies to vessels on the water as well. Activities like operating a vessel while impaired, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and operating an Unseaworthy vessel are crimes.

Conservation areas may have additional regulations, as discussed in the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, among others.

These regulations set the minimum safety standard, but it’s encouraged that you go above and beyond to make your trip on the water safe.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Being A Responsible Boat Owner

  1. Do Your Research:

    • What documents you need.
    • Which insurance you will need.
    • Training needed to operate your vessel safely.
    • Safety Equipment needed on your vessel.
  2. License or Register Your Vessel:

    • Commercial vessels and Pleasure crafts with an engine over 10HP must be licensed and registered.
    • Registration and License information must be kept up to date.
  3. Meet All the Safety Requirments:

    • Your vessel must be in good condition and seaworthy.
    • Carry your competency certifications and any other relevant certifications with you.
    • Follow safe boating practices.
    • Respect the environment.
  4. Disposing of/Selling Your Vessel

    • Know your responsibilities and the buyer’s responsibilities during the sale of your vessel and transfer of ownership.
    • Don’t abandon your vessel, dispose of it properly and recycle it if possible.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Vessel Requirements

In Canada, any vessel that is equipped or designed to have a motor must adhere to Part 7 of the Small Vessel Regulations, and Transport Canada’s Construction Standards for Small Vessels.

Compliance Notices

If your vessel is under 24 meters you must display the compliance notice from the manufacturers or importers confirmation that they complied with Small Vessel Regulations. Alternatively, if your vessel is under 6 meters, the compliance notices will usually only inform you of the maximum safe limits. For example, motor sizes, the number of people that can be on board, and how much weight is safe for the vessel to carry.

This notice must be visible from the helm of your vessel.

Your vessel must also display a hull serial number, this helps people find lost or stolen boats.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Licenses You The Operator Need

Operating a Pleasure Craft

Any time you are out on the water you must carry proof of competency on board. Documents that are accepted as proof of competency would be a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), proof passing a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999, or a specified marine certificate. If you are renting a vessel, a completed rental boat safety checklist would also suffice for the period that you are renting.

If you are operating a marine VHF radio, or have one on board your vessel you will need to get a Restricted Operators Certificate (ROC).

Age and Horse Power Restrictions

Children under 12 may operate a boat under 10 HP with supervision. Children ages 12 to 16 may operate a boat under 40HP without supervision. If a child is under 16 they cannot operate a personal watercraft, regardless of supervision.

Every person regardless of their age must carry with them personal identification, proof of competency and a Pleasure Craft License while operating a vessel.

Exceptions: there are no age or horsepower restrictions in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.

Operating a Commercial Vessel

To operate a small commercial vessel you will need at minimum your Small Vessel Operators Proficiency (SVOP), ROC, Marine Emergency Duties (MED-A3), and Marine Basic First Aid.

Larger vessels will require more in-depth certifications, which you can find more information on those here.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Licensing and Registration

To operate or keep a vessel, with at least one motor with more than 10HP in Canada,  you must get the vessel licensed or registered. Dinghies or tenders are not exempt from this process so make sure you are covering all of your bases.

Pleasure Craft License

A document that classifies your vessel as a pleasure craft, and therefore not used as a commercial vessel in any way. This document gives your vessel a unique license number that is valid for 10 years. It allows Search and Rescue personal access to information about your vessel in the event of an emergency, and the license is not required but it is recommended for safety reasons. This license is not proof of ownership, so make sure to register your vessels as well.

Vessel Registration

Where to Register: Transport Canada.

Pleasure Crafts over 15 gross tons are not required to register, but if you do it gives you Proof of Ownership, the right to fly the Canadian flag, you will have a unique name and official number for your vessel. Additionally, you would gain the right to use your vessel as security for a marine mortgage.

Commercial Vessels

All commercial vessels must be registered with Transport Canada. You can choose to register using the  Canadian Register of Vessels or the Small Vessel Register (Commercial).

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Safety Equipment

All safety equipment on board must be in good working order, easy to each, maintained properly and replaced when needed and following instructions set by the manufacturers. In Canada, safety equipment is determined by the type and length of your vessel.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Fueling a Vessel Safely

  1. Moor and secure your vessel securely to prevent spills.
  2. Shut off all engines.
  3. Send passengers and guests ashore.
  4. Put out all open flames.
  5. Do not smoke anywhere near the fuel dock or your vessel.
  6. Turn off all electrical switches and power supplies.
  7. Do not use electrical devices such as portable radios.
  8. Close all windows, portholes, hatches and cabin doors.
  9. Remove all portable tanks before refuelling.
  10. Make sure to double-check that you have the right for your vessel or tank.
  11. Never interchange gasoline and diesel jerry cans.
  12. Ground the nozzle against the filler pipe.
  13. Never leave the pump unattended while fueling.
  14. Never overfill your tank, know how much it holds.
  15. Wipe up spills and dispose of used clothes or towels in the appropriate container.
  16. Run the engine compartment for at least four minutes before starting a gasoline engine.
  17. Check for vapours coming from the engine compartment before starting the engine.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Human Powered Vessels

Human-Powered Vessels are:

Canoes, Kayaks, Water Cycles, Standup Paddleboards, Rowboats, Rowing Shells, etc…

They Must Have

Lifejackets or PFDs for every person on board, a reboarding device, a floating heaving line longer than 15 meters.

If these crafts are longer then 6 meters they must additionally carry: A watertight flashlight, six flares (Types A, B, or C), only two of these can be Type D flares, a bailer or manual bilge pump, or any bilge pumping arrangments. Make sure to also have a sound signaling device, navigational lights, a magnetic compass, and a radar reflector.

If everyone is wearing lifejackets or a properly sized PDF you are only required to have on you: A watertight flashlight if operating near or around sunrise or sunset, or in/near restricted visibility, and sound signaling device.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Sailboards and Kiteboards

You must carry onboard:

Lifejackets or PFDs for everyone on board, a reboarding device, a floating heaving line longer than 15 meters, a manual propelling device like a paddle, an anchor and at least 15 meters of cable, rope or chain, or a combination of those. You must also carry a bailer or manual bilge pump, a sound-signaling device, navigation light, a magnetic compass, and a radar reflector.

If everyone is wearing their PFD or Lifejacket you are only required to carry a sound-signaling device and a watertight flashlight if you are operating at night or near sunrise or sunset, or in restricted visibility.

It’s extremely important that kiteboarders and sailboarders do not wear a lifejacket or PFD that is fitted with an automatic inflator!

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

A Personal Watercraft (PWC)

The minimum safety requirements for a PWC are:

Lifejackets or PFDs for everyone on board, a reboarding device, a floating heaving line at least 15 meters long, a watertight flashlight or three flares (Type A, B, C, or D, but only one can by Type D.) You must also carry a manual propelling device or an anchor with at least 15 meters of chain, rope, cable, or a combination of those. Additionally, you must have onboard a sound-signaling device, a bailer or manual bilge pump, navigation lights, a magnetic compass, radar reflector, and a 5BC fire extinguisher.

If everyone is wearing their lifejacket or PFD, you only have to carry a sound-signaling device, watertight flashlight, magnetic compass ( if you are navigating out of sight of navigational marks), navigation lights (only if you’re operating from sunset to sunrise, and restricted visibility.)

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

Sailing Vessel and Power Driven Vessels Under 6 Meters

Make sure to carry:

  • Lifejackets or PFDs for everyone on board.
  • A reboarding device.
  • A floating heaving line longer than 15 meters.

If the vessel has a motor:

  • A watertight flashlight.
  • Three Flare (Types A, B, C, or D, only one can by Type D.)
  • One manual propelling device or anchor with 15 meters of cable, rope or chain or some combination of those.
  • A Bailer or Manual Bilge Pump.
  • A Sound-signaling device.
  • Navigation lights.
  • Magnetic Compass
  • Radar Reflector
  • 5BC Fire Extinguisher if the engine is an inboard engine, or you have a fixed fuel tank of any size, or if you have fuel-burning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance.

If you want to know more on how you can be safe on the water Safe Boating Guide by Transport Canada.

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