What is Proof of Competency for Boaters?

March 6, 2024

According to the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (SOR/99-53), all boaters who are operating a motorized pleasure craft for recreational purposes on Canadian waters require proof of competency. This applies even if the boat’s motor is turned off.

Exceptions apply in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and in the case of seaplanes. Indigenous Peoples who use a motorized pleasure vehicle for subsistence activities are also exempt.

Proof of competency: a brief overview

Before 1999, anyone could operate a boat in Canada without passing a test or getting certified. 

Due to rising concern about boating-related injuries and deaths, it is now a requirement that all motorized boat operators prove their knowledge of boating safety by completing a boating safety course to obtain proof of competency.

What is proof of competency?


For recreational boating, proof of competency usually means holding a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). To get your card, you must follow a boating safety course that is accredited by Transport Canada, and pass an exam.

Once you have your card, you are qualified for life. Always carry your proof of competency on board.

You do not need proof of competency to operate a non-motorized boat on Canadian waters.

If you are renting a boat, a completed Rental Boat Safety Checklist serves as proof of competency.

Other laws surrounding competency include: 

  • Unsupervised operators under age 12 can only operate a vessel powered by 10hp (7.5 kw) or less.
  • Unsupervised operators between 12 and 16 years old can only operate a vessel powered by 40hp (30kw) or less.
  • Persons younger than 16 years old cannot operate a PWC.

Competency requirements vary according to the type of vessel you are operating. For a complete list of competencies, refer to the Transport Canada website


What if I lose my card?

A lost or damaged card can be replaced by the organisation that issued it. If you have trouble contacting the course provider, you can get help by calling the Boating Safety Infoline at 1-800-267-6687. 

Exceptions to the proof of competency requirement in Canada

You do not need proof of competency to operate a pleasure craft on Canadian waters if:

  • The boat has no motor.
  • You are a non-resident visiting Canada for less than 45 consecutive days.
  • You are operating a boat in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
  • You are operating a seaplane (other qualifications apply).

Get your boating license so you can boat legally in Canada

It can be tempting to take to the water without much preparation, but Canadian law stipulates that you need to carry proof of competency to operate a motorized vessel on Canadian waters. 

Keep in mind that other laws also apply concerning appropriate PFDs and communication equipment, proof of boat maintenance and more. 

The National Boating Safety School offers comprehensive, certified training that you can complete online on any device. Learn everything you need to know about safe boating, and take the boating exam for Proof of Competency quickly and easily, today!

Get your card today