Super Camping British Columbia
Super Camping British Columbia

Super Camping
British Columbia
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Yacht Downtown Vancouver Looking Towards Stanley Park - Photo Don

Boating Regulations

The following is a list of guidelines and boating regulations for operating pleasure craft in Canada and British Columbia. Travel British Columbia advises that you use this as a reference when taking part in any recreational boating during your stay.


Transport Canada sets and enforces regulations for all boaters and runs the Office of Boating Safety that delivers prevention-based programs and policies to encourage safe boating practices (including those pertaining to rental boats) and reduce the environmental impacts of boating on Canadian waters. Transport Canada encourages all boaters to file a trip plan, with travel route and boat description, before heading out and also provides information on links to education resources for recreational boaters.

The Office of Boating Safety for British Columbia falls under the Pacific Region and may be contacted on 604-666-2681 or by email at: [email protected]

At a federal level the Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for border access, services and security. Its webpage on reporting requirements for private boaters provides answers to many questions frequently asked by boaters.

Entering Canada by Boat (Customs)

If you arrive in Canada by recreational watercraft the master/person in charge is required to report to the CBSA Telephone Reporting Centre at 888-226-7277. No one except the master may leave the boat until the Canada Border Services Agency gives authorization. The border officer will ask for details of the voyage, cargo and passengers, including passport information.

For information on the procedures to follow when entering Canada from the United States on a private boat visit: Requirements for Foreign Recreational Borders in Canadian Waters.

Canadian Boat Operator Competency Requirements

Recreational boaters operating any pleasure craft fitted with a motor must have a “proof of competency for recreational boatersand proof of age on board at all times. Proof of competency indicates the boater has a basic level of boating safety knowledge, including what to do in an emergency. A variety of documents may serve as proof of competency so consult the web link provided.

Operator Regulations for Non-Residents

If a non-resident operates their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive days, or if they operate a pleasure craft that is licensed or registered in Canada (including rented or chartered boats), then boat operator regulations apply.

For visitors to Canada, an operator card or other document that meets the requirements of their home state or country is accepted as proof of boating competency. For more information visit the official government webpage: Requirements for Foreign Recreational Borders in Canadian Waters.

Operator Restrictions (Age/Horsepower)

In addition to carrying a document serving as proof of boating competency, operators under the age of 16 must also comply with other requirements, specifically regarding the horsepower of the boat’s engine. The regulations are:

  • Youth under the age of 12 with no direct supervision may only operate a boat with a motor of up to 10 hp/7.5 kW.
  • Anyone aged 12–15 with no direct supervision may only operate a boat with a motor of up to 40 hp/30 kW.

Youth restrictions do not apply in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Speed Considerations/Alcohol and Boating

Transport Canada’s Speed and Impaired Boating webpage provides guidelines on operating boats at a safe speed (and what to consider) and impaired driving on the water, and the RCMP has info on knowing the law before drinking alcohol on boats.

Bear in mind that provinces and territories in Canada have their own rules regarding when you can drink alcohol on a boat, how alcohol can be carried on board from one location to another and impairment limits.

Alcohol may be consumed on board a pleasure craft in BC only if the vessel has: permanent sleeping and cooking facilities and a permanent toilet. If these conditions are not met anyone drinking the alcohol could incur fines of over $200 for consuming liquor in a public place.

Operating a boat while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Operators with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood are liable to the following fines:

  • 1st offence, at least a $1,000 fine
  • 2nd offence, at least 30 days of imprisonment
  • 3rd offence, at least 120 days of imprisonment.

The maximum sentence may vary depending on provincial and territorial statutes.

Camping Lodging

The Super Camping / Select Lodging Guide

First Published in 1989