Before you set sail on your BC adventure, it is important to know that operating a powered watercraft in Canadian waters requires a boating license, also known as the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).
On this page, we will cover everything you need to know about obtaining a boating license in BC, including who needs one, how to obtain one, and the benefits of having one.
Who Needs a Boating License?
Anyone who operates a powered watercraft in Canada needs to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) or other proof of competency. This includes all types ad sizes of powered watercraft, from a jet ski to a luxury yacht.
With a PCOC, there is no limit to the size of the boat you can operate. Whether you’re cruising on a small pontoon or a large yacht, as long as you hold a valid PCOC, you can legally operate the boat.
The PCOC is the minimum training required to operate a boat in Canada. This license indicates that the holder has completed a boating safety course and has demonstrated knowledge of boating laws and safety practices. The PCOC is a nationally recognized certification, meaning it is valid in all Canadian provinces and territories.
The PCOC is the first step to ensure the safe operation of a vessel in BC – if a boater intends to venture into more coastal waters, especially those found on the east and west side of Vancouver Island and north of Vancouver Island, it is recommended that a Power Squadron Course be completed as well, prior to navigating in these adventurous waters.
Once you obtain a boating license in Canada, it is valid for life and does not need to be renewed. However, it is recommended that boaters take a refresher course or review the boating safety handbook periodically to ensure they stay up-to-date on boating laws and safety practices.
The PCOC is recognized across all Canadian provinces and territories, so boaters can take their boat anywhere in Canada and be legally authorized to operate it. This means that if you decide to go on a boating vacation to a different province, you won’t have to worry about obtaining a separate license.
Keep It On-Board
It is important to note that boaters need to have their PCOC on board with them at all times when operating a powered watercraft. A photocopy of the card is not sufficient. If stopped by law enforcement, boaters must be able to present their original PCOC or face a fine.
Fine for Operating a Boat Without Proof of Competency
In British Columbia, fines for operating a powered watercraft without having a boating license or other proof of competency start at a minimum of $250.
Rules for Non-Resident Visiting Canada
If you are a non-resident visiting Canada and plan to operate a powered watercraft:
- You are not required to carry proof of competency on board as long as your boat is in Canada for less than 45 consecutive days.
- You are required to carry proof of competency on board if your boat is in Canada for 45 consecutive days or more.
How to Get a Boating License (PCOC)
To obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), boaters must complete a Transport Canada-accredited boating safety course and exam. The course covers topics such as boating laws and regulations, safety equipment, navigation, and boating emergencies. The course can be taken online and usually takes 3-4 hours to complete.
Our Preferred Provider: MyBoatCard.com®
MyBoatCard.com® is the only Transport Canada-accredited boating license (PCOC) provider based in British Columbia. They have been accredited since 1999 and offer an easy-to-use online boating course and PCOC exam.
Benefits of Getting a Boating License (PCOC)
Obtaining a boating license in Canada offers numerous benefits, including:
- Increased Safety: The PCOC boating safety course covers important safety information, such as how to properly use safety equipment, navigate in different weather conditions, and handle emergencies.
- Legal Compliance: A boating license (PCOC) is a legal requirement to operate a powered watercraft in Canada. By obtaining a boating license, boaters can avoid facing fines and other legal consequences.
- Nationwide Recognition: The PCOC is valid in all Canadian provinces and territories, meaning boaters can travel and operate their watercraft anywhere in Canada without having to obtain additional licenses.
- Good for Life: Your PCOC never expires and is good for life!
BOAT WITH CONFIDENCE!
Boating is most enjoyable when you’re well-trained and confident in your knowledge and skills. Depending on the type of boating you enjoy, and the level of difficulty you intend to embrace, there are many courses available from basic through advanced training to coastal navigation, anchoring and docking.
START WITH YOUR PLEASURE CRAFT OPERATORS CARD
A Pleasure Craft Operators Card (PCOC) is your Transport Canada (TC) accredited proof of basic competency to operate a power-driven vessel of any size in Canada and is only the first step in your journey to become a confident boater. We recommend additional training for anyone who plans to spend more than a few hours out boating.
You can get your PCOC card by taking an in-person or online course and successfully completing the exam. The card is good for life and is enforceable – if you’re out on the water, make sure you keep it handy as you can be pulled over and asked for it by law enforcement or volunteer officers.
If you are renting a boat for a short period of time, a PCOC is not required by TC. Rental companies are equipped with a TC safety check list, which they’ll walk customers through before heading out.
PCOC is a Transport Canada accredited, for more information, read their detailed FAQ’s.
Obtaining a boating license (PCOC) in Canada is a necessary step for anyone planning to operate a powered watercraft. The PCOC is a nationally recognized Transport Canada certification that indicates the holder has completed a boating safety course and has demonstrated knowledge of boating laws and safety practices. By obtaining a boating license, boaters can ensure their safety, comply with legal requirements, and enjoy boating throughout Canada.