What is the difference between a licence and registration?
Pleasure craft licence
A pleasure craft licence provides a unique identification number - commonly referred to as the "licence number" - that an owner of a pleasure craft must display on the bow. This number helps law enforcement and search and rescue
officials trace a pleasure craft to its owner. An owner must display the licence number on both sides of the bow of the pleasure craft, above the water
line, in block characters not less than 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) high and in a colour that contrasts with the colour of the bow.
The licence is mandatory for all pleasure craft equipped with motors of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more, including personal watercraft.
NOTE: You do not need a pleasure craft licence if a boat is registered. For more information, read What types of pleasure craft do I need to license?
The pleasure craft licence is free of charge, and you can transfer it to any subsequent owner of the pleasure craft. You must carry a copy of the licence on board your vessel at all times. However, a licence is not a title document. You must also carry other documents, such as a document that establishes ownership
, to help avoid delays clearing U.S. or Canada customs
, or in case of a fine.
Registering your pleasure craft
The Canadian Register of Vessels is a title system that keeps track of the owners of vessels. It contains information on each vessel such as ownership and vessel characteristics, e.g. tonnage, construction material and type. When you register, you receive an official number for your vessel, as well as a unique name. It also provides certain benefits, such as the right to fly the Canadian flag.
If you intend to use your vessel as security
for a marine
mortgage, you are required to register your vessel.
Registration is optional for all pleasure craft, regardless of tonnage and length, as per the Canada Shipping Act, 2001
There are costs associated with registering. However, the registration is good for as long as you own the vessel. You must carry registration documents on board the vessel at all times, together with any other ownership documents, to help avoid delays clearing U.S. or Canada customs
, or in case of a fine.
Transport Canada provides this registration service
. For frequently asked questions on registration, please visit the Vessel Registration Office
Registering your small commercial
In Canada, you must register commercial
vessels of all sizes. This includes human-powered craft such as kayaks and white-water rafts used by guides for guided trips; but not lifeboats or other survival craft on board a larger ship, which are inspected as a part of the ship’s equipment
. A pleasure craft licence is not acceptable for a commercial vessel. You should have your registration documents on board at all times.
If your vessel is no more than 15 gross tonnage, you may register it in either the Small Vessel Register or the Canadian Register of Vessels. If your vessel is more than 15 gross tonnage, or if you want to register a mortgage, you must register it in the Canadian Register of Vessels.