What is the Difference Between a License and Registration for a Boat?

What is the Difference Between a License and Registration

Buying your own boat can unlock hours of leisure for you and your family. With your own vessel, you can untie from the dock whenever you would like, and set out to make waves on Canada’s many pristine waterways. With hundreds of thousands of lakes in just Ontario alone, Canada is a premier boating destination, and with the right paperwork in place, you can take advantage of our nation’s scenic beauty. If you are new to boat ownership, you might find yourself wondering what is the difference between a license and registration for a boat. After all, you were probably drawn to boating for the freedom it affords, and not the paperwork and documentation matters involved. Still, as operating a vessel in Canada is a privilege, you will have certain responsibilities as a boat owner. In addition to keeping your boat well-maintained and stocked with life jackets and a first aid kit, it is a must that you carry the proper Transport Canada documentation onboard your vessel. By keeping your license or registration current, you can set sail with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your boat is in good legal standing.

In your years as a boat owner, you can expect to work with Transport Canada from time to time. As the nation’s main transportation agency for matters of both land and sea, Transport Canada has a number of important duties, one of which is the issuance of licenses and registrations to boat owners. By keeping tabs on who and what is on our waters, Transport Canada can better regulate and protect our lakes and rivers for future generations of boaters to enjoy. Read on to learn what is the difference between a license and registration, as well as how you can get the documentation you need online.

The Basics: What is the Difference Between a License and Registration?

When you hear the words “license and registration,” you probably think of your car. While somewhat similar in the marine world, licenses and registrations actually serve two different purposes for boats in Canada. At a basic level, a boat license, officially called a Pleasure Craft License (PCL), is required for a certain class of recreational watercraft. More specifically, any vessel with an engine of 7.5 kW (10 horsepower) or more will require a PCL. With this license, which is obtained from Transport Canada, you will receive a registration number. This alphanumeric string of digits will need to be displayed on both sides of your boat’s bow in letters of at least three inches in height. Your number should also clearly contrast with the exterior color of your boat.

To get your PCL, you will need to complete an application with Transport Canada. This form will ask for some basic information about yourself and the vessel in question. You will also need to provide a bill of sale and a photograph of your vessel from a side profile angle. Once issued, your PCL will be valid for a period of ten years, at which point you will have the opportunity to submit a renewal request.

Understanding Vessel Registration

While most leisure vessels will only need a PCL, boats used for commercial purposes will need to enter the Small Vessel Registry. Any boat traveling internationally under the Canadian flag, as well as any vessel financed with a marine mortgage will also need registration. When you acquire a vessel registration, Transport Canada will issue your boat an official number, as well as a completely unique name of your choosing.

To get your vessel registration, you will need to complete Form 1 – Application for Registry. You will also need to provide a Form 3 – Statement of Vessel Documentation, as well as a tonnage measurement and Form 6 – Bill of Sale. Additionally, you will need to submit photographs of all four sides of your vessel to Transport Canada. You can locate all of these forms on Transport Canada’s website in a PDF format. You can then download these files, print them out, fill them in by hand, and mail them to Transport Canada’s offices in Ottawa for processing. Of course, if that sounds like a bit of a hassle, you could also use a private online service such as ours at the National Vessel Registry Center.

What is the Difference Between a License and Registration

Get Your License or Registration Forms Online

Whether you need a Pleasure Craft License or a vessel registration, we can help. At the National Vessel Registry Center, we have easy-to-fill online forms for all of your Transport Canada needs. We also have an SSL-encrypted web portal, so your private data will always be transmitted securely. To learn more about our services and how we can help you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page, or contact one of our friendly customer service agents by phone or email today.