Important Changes to Registration Requirements for Government Vessels - SSB No.: 04/2012

PDF Version

RDIMS No .: 7447738
Date ( Y-M-D ): 2012-09-27

Important Message

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This Bulletin informs federal and provincial government departments of:

  1. Changes to registration requirements for certain classes of small government vessels; and
  2. Changes to the methods used for calculating tonnage requirements.

It also reminds government departments that the transitional period to convert licences for non-pleasure (commercial) vessels issued by Canada Customs (now Canada Border Services Agency) expires July 1, 2012.


For the purpose of this policy, a "human-powered vessel" is a vessel such as a canoe or kayak, propelled only by human effort.


On March 17, 2011, the Minister of Transport announced an interim registration guidance explaining that:

  • Owners did not need to register:

    • Human-powered vessels;
    • Small sailing vessels; and
    • Small power-driven vessels with propulsion motors less than 10hp (7.5 kW).
  • Transport Canada would introduce a simplified registration process for owners who needed or wanted to register their vessels.

Note: This interim registration guidance did not apply to government vessels. Recent amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA, 2001) authorize exemptions from the registration requirements in subsection 46(1). The Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations are being amended to implement this change.

Transport Canada's Interim Registration Guidance for Small Government Vessels

Effective April 2, 2012 this interim registration guidance now applies to small government vessels of the same classes as exempted non-government vessels.

Until amendments to the Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations are finalized, human-powered vessels, small sailing vessels and small power-driven vessels with propulsion motors less than 10 hp (7.5 kW) owned by federal and provincial government departments will not be required to register.


  • Owners or operators of such vessels must still comply with CSA , 2001 construction, safety and pollution requirements.

  • Any owner may choose to register such a vessel, using a new simplified registration process.

Voluntary Registration

Under its new simplified registration process, Transport Canada will:

  • Accept a single application form for a vessel or a fleet of vessels;
  • Charge a $50.00 fee for a single vessel or a fleet of vessels; and
  • Issue a Certificate of Registry, valid for five years, and an official number to a single vessel or a fleet of vessels.

Owners registering a fleet of vessels with propulsion motors less than 10 hp must also:

  • Provide the vessel type and sub-type and total number of vessels.
  • Inform the Chief Registrar:
    • of a change in ownership of a vessel or a fleet of vessels;
    • of a change of address; and/or
    • if the fleet has been disbanded.

A "fleet" consists of anywhere between two and 100 vessels. When a fleet exceeds the maximum range assigned, the owner must register a new fleet.

Learn More

You will find the legal requirements for the registration of fleets of vessels in Sections 75.01 to 76 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 at:

Transport Canada Transitional Period – Converting Old Small Non-Pleasure (Commercial) Licences for a Certificate of Registry

Before December 1999, Canada Customs issued licences for Small Non-Pleasure (Commercial) Vessels on behalf of Transport Canada. In 1999, the responsibility of issuing these licences was transferred from Customs to Transport Canada. Licences issued before 1999 had no expiry date.

Please note: A licence issued by Canada Customs on behalf of Transport Canada will not be valid after July 1, 2012.

These licences have a number/letter combination that corresponds to the province the vessel was licensed in. Example: British Columbia – 1K2345, Ontario – 1E6789. Under the registration system, these licences will be converted to the commercial "C" registration, which is recognized by the letter "C" followed by a number and a provincial designator, e.g. C123456ON or C12345BC.

Unless exempted under the Interim Registration Guidance, anyone holding a licence issued by Canada Customs should contact Transport Canada for registration information.

Assigned Formal Tonnage (AFT) NEW

When registering a monohull or multihull vessel of 12m in length or less, you may establish the gross tonnage of your vessel by any one of these methods:

  • Assigned Formal Tonnage (AFT) based on the length of the vessel
  • Simplified Method of Calculation (Form 4A or Form 4B)
  • Measurement performed by a Tonnage Measurer regardless of length

To learn how to establish the gross tonnage of your vessel, refer to FAQ no. 10 at:

Contact Information

Vessel Registration Office through the North American toll free number: 1-877-242-8770.

Vessel Registration Office 
Marine Safety & Security 
Transport Canada 
Tower C, Place de Ville 
10th floor, 330 Sparks Street 
Ottawa, ON 
K1A 0N8

The following document is available for downloading or viewing:

Important Changes to Registration Requirements for Government Vessels (135 KB

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  1. Human-powered vessels
  2. Small Vessel Register
  3. Canoes or kayaks

Questions concerning this Bulletin should be addressed to:

Yvette Myers
North American toll-free no. 1-877-242-8770
Transport Canada
Marine Safety & Security
Tower C, Place de Ville
10th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

Contact us at: or 1-855-859-3123 (Toll Free).