Small Pleasure Craft Security Awareness - TP 15016


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Marine security – Working together


Transport Canada believes the best way to keep small vessels and small vessel facilities safe and secure is to promote security awareness.

In Canada, small vessels often operate near critical infrastructure such as hydro dams, power plants, chemical factories, bridges, and key marine assets such as merchant vessels, ferries or cruise ships, all vulnerable to potential threats.

The use of small vessels for unlawful activities could put our public safety and security as well as our national commerce, trade and economy at risk. That is why you should know how to reduce the risk of incidents using small vessels and know what to do if you see any suspicious activity on or near Canada’s waterways.

To learn more about security awareness in Canada, search the Internet for: Integrated Threat Assessment Centre.



Maritime security: A global concern

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the United Nations agency responsible for improving maritime safety and security. In 2008, it issued voluntary security guidelines for small vessels and facilities. Transport Canada helped draft them. They encourage you to report suspicious activities to appropriate authorities and describe best practices that we hope you will utilize.

The IMO voluntary guidelines will help you:

  • plan for security incidents;
  • offer security awareness programs; and
  • prevent the theft or hijacking of, and unauthorized access to, small vessels.

Guidelines for pleasure craft

The following section is a summary of the IMO guidelines’ Appendix relating to pleasure craft.

Remember: the overall safety and security of your vessel, crew and passengers is your responsibility.

Search your vessel

Search your pleasure craft often to make sure that nothing suspicious has been placed on board, left behind or removed while the vessel was left unattended. If you find something suspicious, contact the appropriate local authorities right away. Do NOT handle suspicious packages or objects.

Secure your vessel Where possible, lock external doors, hatches and storage areas, and secure windows when you leave your pleasure craft unattended. If it will be left unattended for some time:

  • moor the vessel according to local port by-laws;
  • lock ignition switches to prevent theft/unauthorized use;
  • always take the ignition key with you;
  • consider installing a small craft alarm system to alert you to any unauthorized movement.

Protect your property

Consider marking and photographing your vessel and equipment as this will help authorities identify stolen equipment. Consider getting a radio frequency identification device (RFID) anti-theft system, if available. Such systems reduce theft risk, increase recovery rates and in some instances, reduce insurance fees.

Choose a safe route

Plan your route and ports of call carefully before a voyage. Make every effort to avoid areas where security incidents or criminal activities are a major threat. If you must travel through unsafe waters:

  • travel with other vessels as quickly as possible;
  • notify the maritime authorities for the area before you arrive or leave; and
  • keep to a strict contact schedule, preferably via satellite, mobile telephone or similar system which cannot be used to locate the vessel through radio direction finding.


Be prepared

Make sure your emergency plans include procedures for navigation problems, health and safety issues, security alerts and incidents. Conduct regular drills to make sure that everyone on board knows what to do if a safety or security incident occurs. If you are navigating in high-security-risk areas, always search your pleasure craft carefully before getting underway. Take extra care when searching places where a stowaway might hide, such as sail lockers. If possible, conduct the search with another person for your own safety. If you do find a stowaway, contact the appropriate authorities right away.

To learn more about the IMO security guidelines, search the Internet for: MSC.1/Circ.1283.


Reporting suspicious activities

Promoting security awareness is the best way to keep small vessels and small vessel facilities secure. The RCMP has a program to raise awareness and through which suspicious coastal activity can be reported. To learn about this program, search the Internet for: RCMP suspicious coastal activity.

Reporting suspicious activities is important because the RCMP, provincial and municipal police need the marine community and people who live in remote coastal areas to be their “eyes and ears”. There is just too much navigable water within Canada and along our borders for the police to maintain marine security without help.

How you can help

We know that most people using small vessels and facilities are law-abiding — and that activities that appear suspicious — may not be. Use the questions below as guidelines in reporting what you witness.

  • Are unauthorized persons inappropriately trying to gain access to vessels or facilities?
  • Is the size of the vessel’s crew not typical for the type of small vessel (e.g. too many or too few)?
  • Are crew members reluctant to leave a vessel while it is being serviced and/or are they taking unusual security measures?
  • Is a vessel anchored or running without lights in the dark?
  • Are there smaller vessels hovering near a larger vessel?
  • Are crew members recovering items from, or tossing items into, the water or onto the shoreline?
  • Are vessel owners reluctant to fully identify themselves to a marina or harbour authority? Is it hard for those authorities to locate owners?
  • Is there unusual diving activity?


DO NOT approach or challenge anyone you think is acting in a suspicious manner. Report suspicious activity to your local police service or call the RCMP at one of the numbers below.


RCMP contact numbers for reporting suspicious marine activities

  • Newfoundland and Labrador 1-709-772-5400
  • Nova Scotia 1-800-803-7267
  • Prince Edward Island 1-902-566-7112
  • New Brunswick 1-800-665-6663
  • Quebec 1-800-771-5401
  • Ontario 1-800-387-0020
  • Manitoba 1-204-983-5462
  • Saskatchewan 1-306-780-5563
  • Alberta 1-780-412-5300
  • British Columbia 1-888-855-6655
  • Yukon 1-800-381-7564
  • Northwest Territories 1-867-669-1111
  • Nunavut 1-867-979-1111

United States Small Vessel Security Strategy

If you navigate on waterways shared with the United States, you may be interested in the Department of Homeland Security’s Small Vessel Security Strategy, released in 2008.

To learn more, search the Internet for: DHS Small Vessel Security Strategy.


Transport Canada Marine Security activities

To learn more, search the Internet for: Transport Canada Marine Security.

Document Information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Transport 2010. Permission is granted by the Department of Transport, Canada, to copy and/or reproduce the contents of this publication in whole or in part provided that full acknowledgment is given to the Department of Transport, Canada, and that the material be accurately reproduced. While use of this material has been authorized, the Department of Transport, Canada, shall not be responsible for the manner in which the information is presented, nor for any interpretations thereof.

The information in this copy of this publication may not be updated to reflect amendments made to original content. For up-to-date information contact the Department of Transport, Canada.

ISBN: 978-1-100-51217-4 Catalogue No.: T29-72/4-2010

TP 15016 (11/2010) TC-1003787