How to Obtain Proof of Competency

pleasure craft operator card

When you go out on the water, you must know not only about the operation of your boat but also about the general rules of behaviour on the water. This is a transport Canada boating license, a kind of “driver’s license” in the world of high water, which everyone who drives a motorized pleasure craft (regardless of its size and engine power) should have.

Proof of Competency

More recently, until 1999, anyone could manage a boat, regardless of knowledge and experience. Of course, this situation led to many injuries and accidents, so now you must get the appropriate rights to drive the boat. There are several types of proof of competency, each of which gives the right to control the boat:

  • Pleasure Craft Operator Card;
  • Proof of having passed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999;
  • Specified marine certificate;
  • Completed rental boat safety checklist (suitable only for the rental period);
  • For non-residents of Canada – an operator card or other document that meets the requirements of their home state or country.

Obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC)

A Pleasure Craft Operator Card can be obtained by taking a boating safety test from an accredited Transport Canada course provider (you can view a list of providers online). You can prepare for the examination yourself or take special preparatory courses. Preparatory courses will teach you about safe boating, preventive measures and practical ways to reduce risks. The providers determine the course fees, and the Government of Canada charges no fees.

The courses contain knowledge in the main areas:

  • how to prepare the boat, crew and guests for a boat trip
  • minimum boat equipment required on board and in good working order
  • Canadian buoys – what they mean and how they look
  • How to share waterways with other members of the water movement
  • How to act in an emergency
  • Rules for recreational boats
  • Duties of a boat captain
  • And much more

What if I’m Renting?

Suppose you do not own a boat but only rent it and still do not have time to get a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. In that case, another document will allow you to get on the water. It is a rental boat safety checklist that you complete when renting a boat. The rental agency will use the rental boat safety checklist to provide you with information about boat safety, behaviour on local waterways, and any dangers that may lie in waiting there. The rental boat safety checklist is signed in duplicate and must be carried on board at all times. Please note that it is valid only for the rental period of a particular boat.

Replacing your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC)

Pleasure Craft Operator Card is a document issued once and is valid throughout life. However, there are situations when this document needs to be restored: in case of loss or damage.

If you are faced with the need to renew your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, please get in touch with the course provider that issued it to you. Please note that only accredited operators can give replacement cards, and the operator may charge additional fees.

If you do not know the name of your original course provider, or if it is no longer in operation or has its license suspended, you should contact Transport Canada. Call the Boating Safety Information Line at 1-800-267-6687 or email You must provide your name so the agent can find you in the national cardholder database and direct you for further action.

When receiving your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, make sure to make a photocopy of it – this will help you to restore it in the future if it is lost or damaged. However, please be aware that a copy of the PCOC is not a relevant document for boat management.

Horsepower Restrictions

So, you have familiarized yourself with the basic requirements for obtaining a “driving license” for driving a boat. At what age does Canadian law allow captains?

Suppose the boat operator is under 12 years of age. In that case, they can independently operate a boat with engine power up to 10 hp/7.5 kW.

Adolescents aged 12-15 years without direct supervision may operate the boat only with engine power up to 40 hp / 30 kW. “Direct Supervision” means having a person aged 16 or over on board to supervise the operator.

Juveniles under 16 may not operate a personal watercraft, even under supervision.

Operators over 16 have no horsepower restrictions on the boat they operate. However, like others, they must carry a document as proof of competence.

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