Vessel Licences & Registration

What is a vessel licence used for?

When a licence is issued the licence information is entered into a computer-based system which is available to government agencies and police to identify a boat in an emergency, assist in search and rescue efforts and enforce pleasure craft regulations. Licensing is free and legally very different from registration, which was designed for ships.

Who needs a licence?

All pleasure craft powered by an engine 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) or more must be licensed unless the boat has a vessel registration. A vessel can only be licenced or registered, not both. A licence is no longer required for canoes and kayaks used in “guided excursions.” (2011/March Details from Transport Canada.) A licence is sometimes required by foreign countries (i.e. towed dinghies in U.S. locks).

Where do I apply for or transfer a licence?

The easiest route to transfer or apply for a new licence is available online using the Pleasure Craft Electronic Licensing System (PCELS) form (Licence Application) This is much faster than mailing in application forms and copies of ownership and personal ID. Here’s what you can do through the above link:

  • Apply for a boat licence.
  • Transfer a boat licence to your name.
  • Update licence information (address, phone, contact information, changes made to the boat).
  • Request renewal of your boat licence.

There is no charge to licence your boat or transfer the licence. You have 90 days to transfer the ownership or to apply for a new licence. This is a very quick pain free process!

Where do my licence numbers go?

A licensed boat must be marked on both sides of the bow with contrasting “licence numbers” in block characters at least 7.5 cm (3″) high. You may use adhesive decals or paint. There are no regulations about the stern, but it’s normal to display a boat name and city.

A Pleasure Craft License does not prove ownership and Service Canada and Transport Canada cannot confirm ownership so when entering another country carry a bill of sale along with the Pleasure Craft License. Don’t forget the same for tenders and dinghies.
Failure to produce these documents can cause delays, trouble and possibly fines when clearing customs.

Boat Registration

IMG_2775It is no longer required to register a boat that is over 15 gross tons but you can still choose to do so. You will need to register your boat if you are wanting to use your boat as security for a marine mortgage. It is also recommended that if you are going to be doing a lot of international travel that you register your vessel. You will also have to choose a name for your vessel which no one else has previously selected as this will be the primary source of identification. There are costs associated to registering a boat but there are also a number of benefits which include:

  1. A unique name and official number.
  2. Proof of ownership – legal title.
  3. The right to fly the Canadian flag.
  4. The ability to use your boat as security for a marine mortgage.

This is a far more detailed process than licensing and I would suggest contacting Transport Canada or a Marine Title Company to help with the process. Transport Canada- Registration

Aviso Yacht Sales
106-1840 Stewart Ave. Nanaimo, BC V9S 4E6
Telephone: (604) 353 3713 Email:

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