Pleasure Craft License vs. Vessel Registration: Know the Difference

Pleasure Craft License

When you buy your own boat for the first time, the excitement you will feel is undeniable. With a vessel all your own, you can venture out on the water with your friends, family, and loved ones whenever you get the seafaring itch. Before you can start making waves out on Canadian waters, however, you will need to do a fair amount of research in determining what type of vessel is right for you. Are you looking for something truly simple like a canoe or a kayak? Maybe you want a motorized pontoon or fishing boat for lazy afternoons on the lake? Or, maybe your tastes are more extravagant and you are looking into the purchase of a yacht? Regardless of the type of boat you ultimately decide on, you will need to work to save the necessary funds and pursue for-sale listings in order to find the vessel of your dreams. Once you do locate the boat for you, and you and the seller agree on terms, you will probably be antsy to get out on the water. Before you can leave the dock, though, you are going to want to figure out whether you need a pleasure craft license (PCL) or a vessel registration from Transport Canada.

Buying our own boat can open the door to hours of leisure and freedom in the great Canadian outdoors. Being able to access our beautiful, pristine waters is, however, a privilege, and that privilege comes with a great deal of responsibility. It is up to you to do your part to ensure that our waterways are preserved for future generations of boaters to enjoy. One duty you will need to stay on top of is your documentation with Transport Canada. As the nation’s primary transportation agency, Transport Canada is accountable to Parliament and employs thousands in order to manage the country’s roads and waterways. One of their more important tasks is regulating our waters via the issuance of licenses and registrations to Canadian vessel owners. To learn more about what type of documentation your boat will require, read on.

Is a Pleasure Craft License Right for You?

So, you just closed the deal on your brand-new boat and you are eager to hitch it to your truck and head down to the lake as soon as possible. Before you start gearing up for a day out on the water, you are going to want to double-check a few items. For instance, do you have enough life jackets for everyone on board? Additionally, is your Transport Canada paperwork in good order? A good starting point may be to look at your “boat license” and “boating license.” While these items sound very similar, they actually serve fairly different purposes.

A boating license is officially known as Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). These documents are issued to boaters who take a brief educational course and pass a requisite exam. With a PCOC, you are able to officially demonstrate that you have the basic safety competency required to operate a motorized vessel in Canada.

A boat license is technically called a pleasure craft license in Canada. You can think of this as a similar document to a motor vehicle registration (though it should not be confused with a vessel registration, as you will learn). Your PCL applies specifically to your boat, and once it is issued, you will be given a registration number that must be displayed on both sides of your boat’s exterior, well above the waterline in letters of at least three inches in height. In Canada, any motorized vessel with an engine of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more will require a PCL. You can obtain your PCL by completing an application and submitting proof of ownership and a photograph of your vessel to Transport Canada.

What is Vessel Registration? 

While a PCL is sufficient for most recreational boaters in Canada, other vessels will require registration. More specifically, any boat being used for commercial means or travelling internationally under the Canadian flag will need a vessel registration from Transport Canada. This is also true for any boats that are financed with a marine mortgage. When you register your vessel, your boat is given a completely unique name of your choosing as well as an official number. Once registered, you will no longer need to apply for or renew a PCL.

To get your vessel registration, you will need to fill out an application, and provide a statement of qualification, bill of sale, and photographs of all four sides of your vessel to Transport Canada. You can do this by locating, printing, and filling out the necessary PDF forms from Transport Canada’s website, or by working with a private service such as ours at the National Vessel Registry Center.

Pleasure Craft License

Get Your Documents Online Today!

Whether you need a PCL or a vessel registration, we have the easy-to-fill online forms you need. By working with us, you can process your applications over the web in just a matter of minutes. To learn more, explore our site.