Registering in the Small Vessel Register: Overview

A commercial vessel is one that is used for anything other than pleasure, recreation or daily living.

You can register in the Small Vessel Register if:

  • you own and operate a small commercial vessel with a gross tonnage of 15 or less
  • your vessel doesn't require a mortgage registered with Transport Canada (vessels in this register aren't permitted to have this)
  • your vessel doesn't require an official name

The certificate of registry is valid for 5 years.

Note: not all small commercial vessels have to register. If your vessel is exempt, you can still choose to register it voluntarily.

When registration is required

In Canada, you are required by law to register:

  • any commercial (non-pleasure) vessels with a gross tonnage of 15 or less and are powered by a motor of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • government owned vessels with a gross tonnage of 15 or less and are powered with motors of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more
  • commercial river rafts
  • barges

Vessels larger than this must be registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels.

Types of vessel ownership

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

  • individual owners
  • joint owners (5 maximum)

Find out more about types of vessel ownership.

Which vessels are exempt

You do not have to register:

  • all commercial human-powered vessels, such as canoes and kayaks
  • small sailing vessels less than 8.5 metres
  • small power-driven vessels with motors less than 7.5 kW (10 horsepower)

These exemptions do not apply to vessels that carry more than 12 passengers.

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.

Compliance and inspections

Commercial vessels may be inspected by a Transport Canada marine safety inspector to ensure compliance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and its other regulations.

The Small Vessel Compliance Program (self-inspection blue and orange decal program), is available to help vessel owners and operators understand and meet their legal obligations.

Contact the Transport Canada centre in your region to obtain inspection certificates.