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The Competency Of Operators Of Pleasure Craft

By Dennis Cardero

The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations which fall within 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. The regulation applies to sailboats that are fitted with auxiliary motors and to personal watercraft, not just to motorboats. A fine ($250, in the form of a ticket) can be levied by a law enforcement officer upon an operator who fails to show proof of competency (as prescribed within the federal Contraventions Regulations / Contraventions Act).

Since September 15, 2009 all persons operating a pleasure craft that is fitted with a motor require proof of operator competency, regardless of that person’s age, the size of the pleasure craft, or the size of the motor.
The pleasure craft operators card is available online at

Proof of competency can take one of three forms

- proof of having successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada prior to 1 April 1999;
- a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCO Card) issued following the successful completion of a Transport Canada accredited test; or
- a completed rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats).

The PCO Card is good for life. Boaters can obtain their card after attaining a mark of at least 75 percent on a Transport Canada accredited test. A list of course providers is available from the Transport Canada Office of Boating Safety. Boaters have the option of challenging an accredited test if they wish (i.e., taking the test without having first completed a preparatory course of study).

Proof of Competency – Boating Safety

A PCO Card is NOT a “boat driver’s licence” or “permit” but rather simply one form of “proof of competency”, meaning minimal knowledge level that, similar to a high school (or secondary school) graduation diploma (or leaving certificate), cannot ordinarily be revoked, rescinded, cancelled or suspended. (If the card was issued not in accordance with the COPC Regulations, for example fraudulently, then the card can be invalidated.) However, in order to operate a powered pleasure craft, an operator must hold some form of proof of competency such as a PCO Card, just as an automobile driver must hold a valid driver’s license or permit (which can be suspended or revoked, thus curtailing the operators driving privileges.)

Non Residents – Craft operators coming from the USA who are boating in Canada for up to 45 days maximum can have their state boat operator credentials accepted as proof of competency in lieu of a PCO card, for example a card recognized by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators or

Competency, within the meaning of the COPC Regulations refers simply to a person being knowledgeable of 150 basic boating safety principles, such as:

- simple nautical terms e.g. starboard, abaft, the beam, draft
- knowledge of the regulations applicable to boaters e.g. Collision Regulations, Small Vessel Regulations, Vessel (speed & operation) Restriction Regulations
- knowledge of steering and sailing rules e.g. keep going with caution (stand on) vs keep out of the way (give way) when power vessels risk colliding; red-green-white running lights when operating in restricted visibility and at night
- knowledge of safety precautions e.g. inform somebody reliable on shore where you’re traveling and when you should have returned
- knowledge of safety equipment and its proper use e.g. buoyant wearable safety devices, portable fire extinguishers, signal flares 
knowledge of aids to navigation e.g. starboard hand buoy, cardinal buoy, hazard buoy, port hand day beacon, range
- knowing the meaning of weather warning terms and how to find out about them e.g. strong wind warning
- knowing what to do in a boating emergency such as a person overboard, capsizing, mechanical failure, use of anchor, lifejackets, signal flares

Want to find out more about aCanadian Boating Licence, then visit Dennis Cardero’s site and apply for a boating licence onlineApply – Pleasure Craft Operating Card.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Cardero, Dennis "The Competency Of Operators Of Pleasure Craft." The Competency Of Operators Of Pleasure Craft. 21 Jun. 2010. 6 Feb 2016 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Cardero, D (2010, June 21). The Competency Of Operators Of Pleasure Craft. Retrieved February 6, 2016, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Cardero, Dennis "The Competency Of Operators Of Pleasure Craft"

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