Do you have boats that are now considered Commercial Passenger Vessels?

Recent changes to the Canada Shipping Act have changed some of the definitions that we work from. The changes began in 1998 with amendments to the Canada Shipping Act and continued with the passage of a new Canada Shipping Act in 2001.

Over the past months, there has been some confusion over the issue of what constitutes a Commercial Passenger Vessel. I will do my best to help you understand how recent rule changes may affect the status of your boats.

The status of boats you rent to your guest is absolutely clear. They drive the boat therefore it is a Pleasure Craft.

If the boat requires a “Captain” or if you have a boat that you never allow your guests to operate by themselves, it is a commercial vessel. This could include everything from larger fishing boats that are always driven by your guides or boats that bring your guests to the lodge. Since they are used for commercial purposes and operated by one of your employees, they are not Pleasure Craft, but Commercial Passenger Vessels. These boats should be registered as a Commercial Passenger Vessel.

What does this mean to you in practical terms?

Life Saving Equipment

The most significant immediate impact has to do with the safety equipment required. Unlike Pleasure Craft, which can carry Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), Commercial Passenger Vessels must carry approved Life Jackets. These are much bulkier and somewhat more expensive than PFDs and operators have expressed concern that they will take up valuable storage space.

Re-Registration from Pleasure Craft to Commercial Passenger Vessels

Once you have determined which of your boats are Commercial Passenger Vessels, the next step is re-registration. This is voluntary right now and does not cost anything for existing boats, but will cost $50 per boat sometime in the future. It involves applying for a Commercial Small Vessel Licence using a one-page form that is available from Transport Canada. The only real change that you’ll notice is that the letter E in the registration number on your boat will change to a C. New boats will have a CO in front of the numbers and ON, after.


For existing boats under 8.5m in length (approx. 28’) - Other than normal random and planned inspections, there is currently no legal inspection requirement for these boats. Operators can elect to voluntarily participate in the Small Vessel Monitoring and Inspection Program, which involves an initial inspection by Transport Canada and ongoing inspection and documentation by the operator. Although the system is voluntary, some operators may choose to participate for liability reasons, or as a way of demonstrating their safety commitment to guests.

For boats between 8.5m and 12m in length (approx. 28’ to 39’) – There is a mandatory first inspection as well as random and planned inspections. Operators must comply with the Small Vessel Monitoring and Inspection Program, which as stated above involves an initial inspection by Transport Canada and ongoing inspection and documentation by the operator.

Operator Certificates

There is no operator certificate required at this time. However, this is currently under review and may change in the future. Unfortunately, none of the current qualifications seems appropriate. The most basic qualification available right now is the Master Limited. This requires a course that runs several days and is currently available only in southern Ontario.

As we have indicated in earlier versions of The Outfitter, if Transport Canada elects to require a certificate, we intend to work with them to help develop an appropriate set of qualifications and put in place an accessible system for delivering the required course. For now, however, operator certification is not a concern.

As we indicated in a previous issue of The Outfitter, we are continuing discussions with Transport Canada on several concerns we have. Aside from the cost and bulkiness of the required life jackets, will we find that carrying life jackets (they are not practical to wear) replaces wearing PFDs? If this is the case, will safety be compromised rather than enhanced?

There is also the possibility of having certain designated lakes or areas designated as Minor Waters (less than two miles to land), and possibly having the life jacket requirement reduced from a Standard Life Jacket to a Small Vessel Life Jacket. Small Vessel Life Jackets are somewhat less bulky, but still larger and more expensive than PFDs. Some of the newer models are similar to PFD’s with a collar. One operator in Northwestern Ontario has already requested an exemption to allow them to legally carry small vessel life jackets instead of the Standard ones, through Transport Canada’s Thunder Bay office.

Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts about these regulations? We intend to continue discussions with Transport Canada, and your comments will help us to request changes that protect the safety of our guests with the least possible cost and inconvenience. 

This article was taken from pages 18 & 19 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, May/June 2003 Issue


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