Operator Card

How to Obtain Your Pleasure Craft Operator Card

The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations state that all operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes are required to have proof of competency with them onboard at all times.

Proof of competency can mean any of the following:

  • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) issued upon the successful completion of a Transport Canada approved test; or
  • Proof of successful completion of an approved boating safety course prior to 1 April 1999;
  • A rental safety checklist completed prior to the rental of a power-driven boat

The regulation applies to all motorized vessels; this includes sailing vessels fitted with auxiliary motors, smaller fishing boats with electric trolling motors and also personal watercraft. Operators who are unable to show proof of competency or a Pleasure Craft Operator Card when requested by law enforcement officers may face fines. For most boaters, the easiest way of obtaining proof of competency is to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

The most common form of proof of competency is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card and can only be obtained from a recognized Transport Canada course provider.

No Grandfather Clause

A common misconception is that a grandfather clause exists and that some older or more experienced boaters are exempt from the requirement. This is false. The Pleasure Craft Operator card is required for all operators of motorized vessels in Canada, regardless of age their age or the size of their boat.

Good for life

Once obtained, the Pleasure Craft Operator Card is good for life. Boaters can acquire the card following the successful completion (scoring 75% or higher) of the Transport Canada approved test. Although attending and completing a boating safety course is encouraged, there is no legal requirement to do so. Passing the test is all that is required. Many Canadians are taking their Boater Exam® online.

The PCOC is not a "Boating License"

Many boaters incorrectly use the term "Boating License" when referring to their Pleasure Craft Operator Card. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is NOT a boating license. Unlike a driver's license, your card cannot normally be revoked or suspended and is good for life. However, if it is found that the card was issued by fraudulent means, in violation of federal regulations, then the card will be deemed invalid.


  • Non-residents boating in Canada for 45 days or less are not required to have proof of competency. However, if they are operating a vessel registered in Canada then they must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or another form of proof of competency) regardless of how many days they are operating.
  • Non-residents operating an out-of-country vessel for more than 45 consecutive days are required to have proof of competency onboard, such as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Non-residents require proof of citizenship at all times while operating.

Commercial Mariners

The completion of an approved exam is not required for commercial mariners who hold recognized professional maritime certificates. In many instances they can simply apply to obtain their pleasure craft operator card so they may have it onboard when boating recreationally.

Principles of Boating Safety

In the context of the Pleasure Craft Operator Regulations competency simply implies that a person has knowledge of the minimum principles required to boat safely, including but not limited to:

  • Various important nautical terminologies
  • Important aspects of the Collision, Small Vessel and Vessel Restriction Regulations
  • Rules of the road e.g. Right of ways, Navigation rules; navigation lights, etc.
  • Safety procedures and emergency preparedness
  • Safety equipment carriage requirements and its proper use
  • Knowledge of aids to navigation, commonly known as marker buoys
  • Awareness of various weather warnings and terms
  • What to do in an emergency situation e.g. falls overboard, capsizing, mechanical failure, anchoring, lifejackets, visual distress signals.