Boater Exam® – FAQ
When do I need to get a card?
The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations require operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes to have proof of competency on board at all times. These requirements are being phased in over ten years (see table).
Date at which proof of competency is required *
How this applies to operators** of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes:
- All operators born after April 1, 1983, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 1999.
- All operators of craft under 4 m in length, including personal watercraft, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 2002.
- All operators, proof of competency required on board by September 15, 2009.
* These requirements apply in areas outside the Northwest and Nunavut Territories at this time.
** Applies to non-residents operating their pleasure craft in Canadian waters after 44 consecutive days. Operator card or equivalent issued to a non-resident by their state or country will be considered as proof of competency.If you hold any certificate on the List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates and other Equivalencies as Proof of Competency when Operating a Pleasure Craft, you already meet the requirements of the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations – you just need to make sure you carry your certificate on board. Proof of certification may include original documentation or a copy of the certificate.
Tip: Certificates for boating safety courses completed before April 1, 1999 will be recognized. If you’ve already taken a course prior to these regulations – and have proof – then that course certificate or card will be accepted as proof of competency!
Proof of competency can take 1 of 3 forms:
- proof of having successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada prior to April 1, 1999
- a pleasure craft operator card issued following the successful completion of a Transport Canada accredited test;
- a completed rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats).
The operator card is good-for-life.
Will boaters who have previously taken a boating safety course be required to take another course or test?
Those who have taken a boating safety course prior to April 1, 1999 will not be required to take another course or test. A copy of a certificate or a card issued at the completion of courses taken prior to April 1, 1999 will need to be carried on board the pleasure craft.
Do I need proof of competency to operate a non-powered pleasure craft?
No. The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations only apply to pleasure craft fitted with a motor.
Do I need proof of competency to paddle a pleasure craft fitted with a motor and the motor is turned off?
Do I need proof of competency to operate a sailboat?
You need proof of competency if the sailboat is fitted with an auxiliary motor, even when under sail.
Do I need proof of competency if I operate a small boat in conjunction with my work?
The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations only apply to operators of pleasure craft (boats used for recreational purposes). Confusion between pleasure craft operation and non-pleasure craft operation is common. Non-pleasure craft are commonly referred to as small commercial vessels.
Do the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations apply to aboriginals?
While the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations apply to aboriginals, the Regulations do not apply in situations where the craft is used for daily living or subsistence activities (such as hunting and fishing for the purpose of subsistence). However, most aboriginals that use a boat for subsistence activities also use it for recreational purposes on occasion. As such, it is recommended everyone have proof of competency. To remove ambiguity, the Regulations state that application is limited to pleasure craft used for recreational purposes.
Do the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations apply to non-residents?
The Regulations apply to non-residents if:
- They operate their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for more than 44 consecutive days or,
- They operate a pleasure craft that is licensed or registered in Canada (including rented or chartered boats).
The Regulations do not apply to non-residents who operate their pleasure craft (licensed in a country other than Canada) in Canadian waters for less than 45 consecutive days. Please note that a proof of residence will be required on board at all times.
If you require more information on how Canadian requirements apply to non-residents visit the Requirements for Foreign Recreational Boaters In Canadian Waters.
What is acceptable proof of competency for non-residents?
For non-residents, proof of competency can take one of three forms:
- Pleasure Craft Operator Card;
- A completed boat rental safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats); or,
- An operator card or equivalent which meets the requirements of their state or country.
If my child is 11 years old and drives a boat of less than 10 HP (with my direct supervision) do they still need proof of competency?
Yes. The age-horsepower restrictions were developed under the Boating Restriction Regulations and aren’t affected, or superseded, by the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations. The two are entirely separate regulations and their respective requirements should be looked at separately to avoid confusion. Remember, anyone born after April 01, 1983 is required to carry proof of competency now.
How do I replace my lost Pleasure Craft Operator Card?
While Transport Canada administers the regulations – all cards are issued by private sector organizations referred to as “Course Providers”. Here are a few tips to getting a card replacement:
- First, contact the accredited course provider that originally issued the card. A complete list of Course Providers is available on this website.
- Second, if you can’t remember the name of the course provider that originally issued your card there are a few things to do to help to remember:
- Did you take the test with a family member or friend? If so, check with them as the name of the course provider will be on their card.
- Did you keep a copy of your receipt or the letter that came in the mail with your card attached to it? The course provider’s name is included on both of these documents – and…
- Most importantly, Transport Canada recommends that all boaters make a copy of their card upon receiving it. This will eliminate doing any research in order to get a replacement card. It’s the simplest and most effective way to get your card replaced!
How do I obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?
To obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card you need to pass an accredited test. The first step is finding an accredited course provider in your area.
Do I need to take a course before I write the test?
Taking a boating safety course is strongly recommended regardless of age or experience. However, you can challenge the test without taking a course.
Why take a boating safety course?
- To improve the safety of all boaters and the boating environment.
- To get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card as required by the regulation.
- To learn about your responsibility.
- To make your boating experience enjoyable for everyone.
What is covered in a course?
The course covers a full range of basic boating information such as:
- minimum safety equipment requirements required on board your boat;
- the Canadian Buoy system;
- how to share waterways;
- a review of all pertinent regulations;
- and how to respond in an emergency situation.
What are my options?
Take the course in class, by correspondence or on the Internet; or, purchase a training manual from an accredited training organization, study on your own and then take the test.
What should I do if I received training prior to April 1, 1999 and my certificate does not show a completion date?
If the course provider that issued the certificate is still in existence, you can contact them to issue you a certificate showing the appropriate completion date. Otherwise, you will need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Can I exchange my certificate for a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?
No. The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations clearly state that a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is a document issued to a person by the administrator of an accredited test (see exception below), to a person that has passed the test. Therefore, a card cannot be issued unless an accredited test has been passed.
Can I obtain a PCOC if I hold a Marine Safety Certificate?
Some Course Providers can issue a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) to any person who provides proof that they hold any certificate on the List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates and other Equivalencies as Proof of Competency when Operating a Pleasure Craft. Proof of certification may include original documentation or a copy of the certificate. Anyone issued a PCOC in this situation will not be required to complete an accredited test and will be considered competent to operate a pleasure craft under the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations.
I took a boating safety course in the United States in 1980 and have a dated certificate. Is it an acceptable proof of competency?
No. The course must be taken in Canada.
If I don't pass the test, can I try again?
The test can be written as often as required, although it is strongly recommended that a course be taken if you are unsuccessful the first time. The test can be written only once in every 24-hour period.
Does Transport Canada or the Canadian Coast Guard teach boating safety courses or offer testing?
No. Private companies administer all courses and tests and issue all cards.
Are course or test fees collected for the federal government?
Because private companies administer all courses and tests and issue all cards no money is collected for the federal government.
Do I need a license to operate my boat?
Sometimes proof of competency is also referred to as a licence to operate a vessel. The two are not the same. In most instances what people actually want to know about is the requirement to carry proof of competency, as required under the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations.
Currently, proof of competency is required if you fall into one of two categories:
- You operate a pleasure craft fitted with a motor AND are born after April 1, 1983; or,
- You operate a pleasure craft, fitted with a motor, that is under 4m (13 feet) in length (regardless of age).
If you were born before April 1, 1983 and operate a pleasure craft, fitted with a motor, that is 4 m and over in length, you will require proof of operator competency by September 15, 2009.
Isn't an operator card just another word for a license?
No, unlike a driver’s licence, the operator card cannot be revoked and is good for life.