Registering a boat in Ontario is more complex than you might think. There are a few different kinds of licensing and registration in Canada, and which one you need to obtain depends on the type of vessel you have.
This article explains the difference between pleasure craft licensing and vessel registration and provides an overview of the procedure to follow for each one.
The main difference between a pleasure craft license and vessel registration is whether the boat is used for recreational or commercial purposes. Licensing is generally reserved for recreational crafts, while registration is meant for commercial vessels—although it’s worth noting that owners of boats that aren’t required to be licensed or registered can still choose to do so if they wish.
A pleasure craft license is a unique identification number that helps law enforcement and search and rescue personnel access important information in the event of an emergency. Any pleasure craft equipped with a motor of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more that is not registered will require a pleasure craft license.
You can apply for a pleasure craft license by mail or online. You’ll need to fill out the appropriate form and include proof of ownership and a signed copy of a valid piece of government-issued identification. Pleasure craft licenses are free and are valid for 10 years after the date they are issued.
Like a pleasure craft license, vessel registration provides a boat with a unique identification number. It also functions as a legal title system for boat ownership. Registered vessels are allowed to fly the Canadian flag, reserve a name and can be used as security for a marine mortgage.
All commercial and government-owned vessels equipped with a motor of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more, barges, river crafts and boats that will be travelling outside of Canada need to be registered. Vessels with a gross tonnage of 15 or more will need to be registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels, while those with a gross tonnage of 15 or less can be registered in the Small Vessel Register.
In order to register a vessel in Canada, the owner must be qualified—in other words, they must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or corporation. To apply for vessel registration, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate form and include a statement of owner qualification, evidence of ownership and tonnage measurements. There is a $250 fee for registering your vessel that includes reserving your vessel’s name. The fee for the Small Vessel Register is $50.
The pleasure craft license and vessel registration are not to be confused with the pleasure craft operator card. While the first two are for the vessels themselves, the pleasure craft operator card is a boating license required for any boater who operates a motorized craft in Canadian waters. Depending on your vessel, you may well need both a pleasure craft license and a pleasure craft operator card in order to boat legally in Ontario.
The National Boating Safety School is an accredited provider of a boating safety course that covers the basic regulations for operating a vessel in Canada. The course also prepares boaters to take the boating exam online to obtain their pleasure craft operator card. Register today to begin your boating adventure!