Assessing the stability of small commercial vessels

The stability of a commercial vessel must be assessed by its owner or operator. Small commercial vessels built before April 1, 2005 may be assessed using a simplified assessment guide developed by Transport Canada. Small commercial vessels more than 6 m in length built after March 31, 2005 must adhere to ISO 12217-1.

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Stability of commercial vessels

Stability is a fundamental aspect of a vessel's safety. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 requires the owner and the master to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy ― including having adequate stability ― both before setting out and during the voyage.

A vessel's stability is the measure of its ability to withstand high winds, waves, and other forces resulting from its operations (lifting, trawling, towing) and resist capsizing by returning to an upright position after being heeled over.

For small commercial vessels built before April 1, 2005, there is no specific standard for measuring stability. For such vessels built after March 31, 2005, the Small Craft Stability Standard ISO 12217-1 applies.

Assessing the stability of vessels built before April 1, 2005

For vessels built before April 1, 2005, there is no specific standard for measuring stability. The Transport Canada Simplified Assessment of Intact Stability and Buoyancy of Small Non-Pleasure Vessels – Assessment Guide (TP 14619) may be used.


This guide may be used for vessels that are not fishing vessels and that:

  • measure between 6 metres and 12 metres in length and not more than 15 gross tonnage
  • carry not more than 12 passengers or 1,000 kilograms of cargo
  • travel not more than 25 nautical miles from shore
  • operate in waves not greater than 2 metres high (if fully-decked) or 1.2 metres high (if open)

This guide provides simple, step-by-step instructions for assessing stability.

Assessing the stability of vessels built after March 31, 2005

In February 2005, Transport Canada established minimum stability criteria for new small commercial vessels ― those built after March 31, 2005. These vessels must be assessed using the International Standards Organization standard ISO 12217-1 – Small Craft Stability and Buoyancy Assessment and Categorization.

This new Canadian standard was established through amendments to the Small Vessel Regulations and the Construction Standards for Small Vessels.

Accessing the ISO standard

There are two ways to access the ISO standard:

  • Copies of ISO 12217-1, Small craft – Stability and buoyancy assessment and categorization, and the two primary supporting documents (ISO 12216 and ISO 11812) can be purchased from IHS Global.
  • Alternatively, you may visit your nearest Transport Canada Marine Safety Centre to view the documents and make notes. However, due to copyright restrictions, you may not photocopy the ISO standards.

Contact information for vessel stability assessment

Mailing Address: 
Transport Canada, Marine Safety 
Domestic Vessel Regulatory Oversight (AMSD) 
Place de Ville, 330 Sparks St.  
Ottawa, Ontario 
K1A 0N8

Phone: 1-855-859-3123 (Toll Free) or 613-991-3135 (Local) 
Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-888-675-6863 
Fax: 613-990-1879

Your local Marine Safety Transport Canada Centre.

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