Pleasure Craft Operator Card Regulations
What is a pleasure craft operator card?
All operators of motorized vessels in Canada, regardless of age or size of boat, require proof of competency. Obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is the most common way to prove competency. This means that the holder of an Operator Card has proven that he/she has gained the minimum level of knowledge to boat safely. The federal law applies to all operators of motorized vessels, regardless of boat length or engine size – including sailboats that are fitted with auxiliary motors, small fishing boats with electric trolling motors as well as personal watercraft. A $250.00 fine is levied by a law enforcement officer upon an operator who fails to show proof of competency.
Proof of Competency
The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (part of the Canada Shipping Act 2001) require operators of pleasure craft in Canada, fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes, to have proof of competency on board with them at all times. Proof of competency can take one of three forms:
- Proof of having successfully completed a Transport Canada recognized boating safety course in Canada prior to 1 April 1999;
- A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) issued following the successful completion of a Transport Canada accredited Test; or
- A completed rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats)
Why do Canadian boaters need a pleasure craft operator card?
With more than 10 Million Canadians taking to Canada’s waterways each year, boating is Canada’s summer pastime. Unfortunately, not all boaters make a return trip. According to the Lifesaving Society of Canada, more than 80 boating fatalities occur each year, along with an estimated 6,000 non-fatal accidents. Sadly, the vast majority of boating fatalities and injuries are preventable. Canada’s federal government enacted the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations to ensure all motorized boat operators in Canada achieve a minimum level of boating safety knowledge. Since the introduction of the regulations on April 1, 1999, the average number of annual boating fatalities in Canada has declined.
Is a pleasure craft operator card different than a boating license?
Boaters commonly refer to the Pleasure Craft Operator Card as a boating license or boat license. However, unlike a license, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card cannot be revoked or suspended.
What happens if I don’t have proof of competency?
Canadian boaters caught operating motorized vessels of any type without proof of competency face a minimum $250 fine.
Who enforces Canada’s operator competency regulations?
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), local municipal and regional police forces, as well as provincial conservation officers, enforce Canada’s Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations.
Who needs a pleasure craft operator card?
Are you required to get a card?
The federal law requiring Canadian boaters to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card was phased in over a 10 year period beginning on April 1, 1999. As of September 15, 2009 all boaters regardless of age, size of boat, or engine horsepower require proof of competency, most commonly in the form of a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Do all power boat operators need proof of competency now?
Yes. As of September 15, 2009 all powerboat operators regardless of age, size of boat, or engine horsepower require proof of competency, such as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Is there a “Grandfather” clause?
No. There is a misconception that a “grandfather” clause exists for experienced or older boaters. This is not the case. All operators of motorized vessels, regardless of age, require proof of competency. There are no age exemptions.
Do I need an operator card to operate a non-powered vessel?
No. You do not need a PCOC to operate a non-powered vessel such as a canoe or kayak. Canada’s Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations apply only to pleasure craft fitted with a motor.
Do I need proof of competency to operate a boat with an electric trolling motor?
Yes. Proof of competency is required to operate any boat fitted with propelling machinery, including boats equipped with electric trolling motors.
Do I need proof of competency to paddle a power-driven vessel when the motor is turned off?
Yes. If your vessel is fitted with propelling machinery you are required to have proof of competency even when the motor is not in use.
Do I need proof of competency to operate a sailboat?
If your vessel is fitted with propelling machinery you are required to have proof of competency even when the motor is not in use.
Non-residents who are boating in Canada for up to 45 days do not require proof of competency. However, non-residents who operate an out-of-country vessel in Canada for more than 45 consecutive days do require competency, such as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Proof of citizenship is required on board at all times, and if the person is operating a vessel registered in Canada he/she must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or proof of competency) even if operating a vessel for less than 45 days.
Commercial boat operators
Commercial mariners who hold valid recognized professional maritime certificates, such as Master Mariner, can apply to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card to have on board while operating a Pleasure Craft. The completion of a Transport Canada Boating Safety Test is not required in this instance.
How to get a pleasure craft operator card
How do I get a pleasure craft operator card?
You can obtain your official Pleasure Craft Operator Card in three steps:
- Take a Transport Canada Approved Boating Safety Course online:
- Animated, narrated and designed for all ages
- 7 learning modules includes all required knowledge
- Standard fee applies
- Transport Canada mandated 3 hour minimum study time
- 80% passing grade required on end-of-module quizzes
- Pass the multiple-choice Boating Safety Test online:
- 50 question, multiple-choice test
- 75% required to pass
- Must be completed within 75 minutes
- The test is open book
- If you fail, you may retry the test at no charge after 24 hours
- If you fail a second time, Transport Canada requires that you must retake the online course (no charge)
- Print a temporary card immediately when you pass:
- Go boating immediately on any Canadian waterway
- A permanent card is mailed to you within 4 weeks
- Your BOATsmart! Pleasure Craft Operator Card is good for life
Preparing for the boating safety test
You can obtain your official boating license by taking the Transport Canada Approved BOATsmart! Online Course. The BOATsmart! Course includes all of the knowledge you need to pass the test. Each lesson is narrated and animations are included. The course includes 7 learning modules including:
- Boating Basics
- Boating Rules, Regulations & Equipment
- Before Heading Out
- Safe Boat Operation
- Navigation & Right-Of-Way Rules
- Markers & Buoys
- Emergency Preparedness
TAKING THE OFFICIAL TEST
Boaters can obtain their card after attaining a mark of at least 75% on a Transport Canada accredited test, such as the one offered by BOATsmart!. Boaters have the option of challenging an accredited test in-person if they wish and there is no legal requirement to complete a boating safety course prior to in-person tests. Boaters who prefer to take the test online, must first complete the online boating safety course. The online test is then open book. The test is offered by BOATsmart! online or in person.
IS THE CARD GOOD FOR LIFE?
Yes. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is good for life. No renewal or annual fees are required.
CAN I PRINT A TEMPORARY CARD?
Yes, immediately upon passing the Transport Canada Boating Safety Test you can print a temporary Pleasure Craft Operator Card. The temporary card is valid for 60 days. If you need to print a temporary operator card again at a later date, you can do so by logging into your account.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR MY OFFICIAL CARD TO ARRIVE IN THE MAIL?
Canadian residents will receive their permanent Pleasure Craft Operator Card within 4 weeks. It may take up to 8 weeks for international residents. You can print a temporary Operator Card while you wait for your permanent card to arrive.
WHAT DOES AN OPERATOR CARD LOOK LIKE?
The official Pleasure Craft Operator Card is a plasticized credit card style card. The card includes the boater’s name, date of birth, card issue date and card number, as well as the Government of Canada logo.
I RECEIVED TRAINING PRIOR TO APRIL 1, 1999. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Contact the Course Provider who issued your original course certificate. If that Course Provider is no longer in operation, you will need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
CAN I EXCHANGE A COURSE CERTIFICATE FOR A PLEASURE CRAFT OPERATOR CARD?
No. Canada’s Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations state that a Pleasure Craft Operator Card can only be issued to a person who has passed an approved Boating Safety Test. The only exception is for those who have acquired a recognized Marine Safety Certificate.
WHERE CAN I BOAT WITH THE CARD?
WHERE CAN I BOAT WITH A PLEASURE CRAFT OPERATOR CARD?
Obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card allows both Canadian and US citizens to operate motorized vessels throughout Canada and the United States. For US citizens, the Pleasure Craft Operator Card is recognized as an out-of-state boater education card – when operating a watercraft in any state except their home state.
IS A PLEASURE CRAFT OPERATOR CARD VALID IN ALL PROVINCES?
Yes. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card is valid in all Canadian provinces and territories. The requirement to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is federal law in Canada. A PCOC is required in all provinces and most territories.
IS A PLEASURE CRAFT OPERATOR CARD THE SAME AS A HARBOUR LICENSE?
No. Some municipalities require boat operators to obtain a harbour license for certain restricted waterways. Operating a motorized vessel within these types of waterways requires both a Pleasure Craft Operator Card as well as a harbour license for that area.
FIVE PRINCIPLES OF BOATING SAFETY
WEAR A LIFE JACKET
Always wear a Transport Canada Approved life jacket or PFD and make sure your passengers do the same.
GET THE KNOWLEDGE
Take personal responsibility, learn the skills and acquire the knowledge you need to boat with confidence. Ensure you understand the “rules of the road” and how to boat safely.
Equip yourself, your boat and your passengers with the right safety gear and know how to use it. Check the weather and boating environment before heading out.
DON’T DRINK AND BOAT
Always say NO to drinking and boating, and operate your boat responsibly at all times.
Be prepared for boating emergencies and know how to react in unexpected situations.