About pleasure craft licensing and vessel registration

Learn which vessels need to be registered or licensed, and who may own a registered vessel in Canada. Also learn the difference between a commercial vessel and a pleasure craft.

On this page

Find out if you need to license or register your vessel

Take a short questionnaire for your vessel

When you’re required to license a pleasure craft

You must license your Licensed pleasure craft if it has a motor of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more, unless it is registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels.

Note: You can choose to license your vessel, even if you're not required to do this.

A pleasure craft license is a unique identification number. It helps trace a vessel to its owner. In an emergency, law enforcement and search and rescue organizations can use this number to locate a vessel.

When you’re required to register a vessel

If you own one of the following vessels, you need to register it:

  • all commercial or government owned vessels equipped with motors whose total power is 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • barges
  • commercial river rafts
  • vessels with a marine mortgage to be registered with Transport Canada
  • vessels that travel outside of Canada

Canadian Register of Vessels

Register in the Canadian Register of Vessels if your vessel:

  • is a commercial vessel with a gross tonnage of 15 or more and is powered by motors totalling 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • is a government owned vessel with a gross tonnage of 15 or more and is powered by motors totalling 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • is a barge with a gross tonnage of 15 or more
  • will have a marine mortgage to be registered with Transport Canada
  • needs a reserved name
  • will travel outside of Canada

Small Vessel Register

Register in the Small Vessel Register if your vessel is:

  • a commercial vessel with a gross tonnage of 15 or less and is powered by motors totalling 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • a government owned vessel with a gross tonnage of 15 or less and is powered by motors totalling 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • a barge with a gross tonnage of 15 or less
  • a commercial river raft

Commercial vessels exempt from registration

You can find a full list of exemptions in the Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations, subsection 1.1.

If you own and operate an exempt vessel, you must still comply with all construction, safety and pollution prevention requirements.

Who may own vessels in Canada

A vessel registered in Canada may be owned by:

  • Canadian citizens
  • permanent residents of Canada
  • Canadian corporations
  • Canadian governments (provincial or federal)
  • foreign corporations (with a Canadian authorized representative)

We do not register vessels owned by:

  • foreign citizens
  • partnerships
  • trusts

A pleasure craft vessel licensed in Canada can be owned by any person or organization, by a maximum of 2 people.

Types of vessel ownership

Each registered vessel is divided into 64 shares owned by either:

  • individual owners
  • joint owners (5 maximum)

Note: Individual and joint ownership apply only to registered vessels. A share cannot be divided into fractions.

Register your pleasure craft in the Canadian Register of Vessels if you want:

  • more than 2 people to share ownership
  • to specify individual or joint ownership
Comparing individual and joint ownership

Individual owners

Joint owners (maximum of 5)

Each owner owns a separate number of shares, for example, one owner owns 40 shares and the other owns 24 shares

All owners own the same number of shares each, for example, if there's 2 joint owners, they jointly own the 64 shares

Can sell or give their shares (or a portion of their shares) to anyone else without the other owner's consent

All joint owners must consent to sell or give their shares (or a portion of their shares) to someone else (they must do this with 1 bill of sale)

If 2 individual owners (for example, 32 shares each) want to sell their respective shares, 2 transfers of ownership must be done and each owner must sign a separate bill of sale to sell their 32 shares

If 2 joint owners want to sell the shares they own jointly, 1 transfer of ownership must be done and both joint owners must sign the same bill of sale

When an individual owner dies, his shares are transmitted to his executor or administrator

When a joint owner dies, his shares are transmitted to the surviving joint owner(s)

Difference between pleasure and commercial uses

All types of vessels can be pleasure craft or commercial vessels, depending on how they are used.

Commercial vessels

Examples of commercial vessel use include:

  • passengers who paid to be on board
  • people on board as part of their job (other than the crew)
  • the operator of the vessel uses it to provide a service
  • the vessel is operated by a government (provincial or federal)

Pleasure craft

A pleasure craft is a vessel used for:

  • fun (for example, boating, getting to the cottage)
  • recreation (for example, waterskiing, fishing for pleasure)
  • daily living (includes those activities that are not part of your employment or business, such as fishing for your family or for travel)

Read more about the differences between commercial and pleasure uses

How to tell if your vessel is licensed or registered

Licensed and registered vessels are marked with different information. This may include their license number or official number.

Markings that distinguish licensed or registered vessels

Example information you'll find on the vessel

What it is

Location on vessel

Is your vessel licensed or registered

50E12345
BC123456

Combination of letters and numbers that do not begin with the letter C

Exterior

Licensed pleasure craft

Happy Dolphin
Vancouver, BC
O.N. 123456
N.R.T. 10.52

Name of the vessel
Port of registry
Official number
Net registered tonnage

Exterior (vessel name and port)

Interior (official number and net registered tonnage)

Registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels

C12345BC

Starts with the letter C

Exterior

Registered in the Small Vessel Register