Congratulations on getting your official boat license! Now it’s time to see if you need to get your boat licensed or registered. As a captain of a boat in the province of British Columbia, you have a responsibility to ensure that – if necessary – your vessel is properly registered or licensed. There are some key differences between the two and it is very important that you know what you need to do, when you need to do it, and why!

Licensing a Pleasure Craft

Do you drive a boat that has a motor that exceeds 10 horsepower? If so, it’s time to look into licensing your vessel. When your vessel is licensed you will be given an identification number specific to your boat. This number will appear on a license card that you as the captain must always keep on board. Your vessel license number will also be used in emergency situations to identify your boat so it needs to be clearly displayed on the bow. Letters must be a minimum of seven-centimetre-tall and the colours must contrast your bow so that they are easily visible. If you do not have the license card on board or your number is not properly displayed, you could face a $250 fine. Learn more about boating violations and fines here.

Much like your driver’s license, the information presented on your vessel license must always be kept up-to-date with current information, so be sure to update it if any of your personal information, such as name or address, change. The license must also be renewed every 10 years.

There is only one circumstance where it is acceptable for an operator to be driving their boat without their license card on board. If the boat has been purchased in the last 90 days you may carry documentation that identifies your name, address, and date of purchase in place of the license. Once this 90-day grace period is over, you are not allowed to drive your boat until it is licensed.

Registering a Vessel

Is your boat large enough to require a marine mortgage? Will you be travelling outside of Canada by boat? If you answered yes to either of these questions, your vessel needs to be registered. Boat registration costs $250.00 and comes with some fun benefits! Registering your boat allows the captain to pick out an official boat name and identify the port of registry for their vessel, for example: “Gone Fishin’, Victoria, BC”.

Both the name of the boat and its port of registry must be displayed on the exterior of the boat. Like the identification number on a licensed boat, the name will be used to identify you in emergencies. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a short and simple name so that it can be communicated effectively between emergency personnel. Registered vessels are also required to display their official number and the tonnage of the boat on the interior.

If your boat meets any of the above criteria, you need to be looking into licensing or registering your vessel. If would like more information on the costs of boat licensing or registration, or have any further questions, you can contact the Vessel Registration Office.

Smart Boaters in British Columbia know that they also need their Pleasure Craft Operator Card or boat license to be a certified boater in this province. To get your boat license, take the Transport Canada approved boating safety course and check out all that British Columbia has to offer.


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