boat on water

If you own a boat of any kind, it’s in your best interests to register it. Ontario boat registration, in particular, has a specific set of steps that need to be followed. With that said, we’ve had plenty of folks reach out to us wondering not only whether registration is even a necessity, but also how to go about doing so. 

Today, let’s explore the fundamentals of Ontario boat registration in more detail. We’ll also compare it to a boat licence – something completely different yet often confused with registration – along the way. With our help, we hope you can make as informed a decision as possible regarding your investment. Let’s get started!

What is Ontario Boat Registration?

Boat trailer insurance falls under the greater umbrella of trailer insurance, as you’re First, the basics. Boat registration is exactly what it sounds like: the registering of a vessel under the owner’s name. It serves the same purpose in any province or territory in Canada. In addition, a designated port of registry will be included (think of the city name found on the stern of a cruise ship or other vessels you’ve likely seen – that’s what this is). It’s handy for demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that you indeed own and operate the vessel in question, which means your registration can be used in situations like obtaining boat insurance in Ontario, signing up for a marine mortgage, or otherwise.

The Ontario Boat Registration Process

In order to register, you must first complete an online application. This is a remarkably streamlined and efficient process compared to how it used to be! With that in mind, when submitting your application, there are important elements that you need to include in order to register a boat in Ontario specifically. These include the following:

A high-quality photograph of your vessel

This must be taken in a way that shows the entire boat in a side profile (in other words, with the camera facing either the port or starboard side of the hull). Only your boat should be visible in the image – never anyone else’s.

One valid piece of government-issued photo ID

The scan should be high enough in quality so any identifying numbers and letters – as well as your photograph – are not distorted or unclear.

Any proof of ownership that you have in your possession

Depending on how you ended up owning the vessel, this may include a will if it was inherited, a divorce agreement if you retained ownership when dividing assets, or a standard receipt and/or quote confirming your purchase.

Third-party authorization letter

This is only required if someone is applying for the boat licensing on your behalf. This would be in a form of a signed letter stating that the owner has authorized the third party to represent them.

Registering a Boat Versus Licensing it

There’s a common misconception that registering a boat in Ontario and licensing it are the same thing. However, that’s not the case. As explored in detail on Transport Canada’s dedicated Frequently Asked Questions page on boat licensing and registration, there are clear differences that make these two terms unique from one another. 

First, as per the Canadian Shipping Act, registration is optional for pleasure craft of any variety and size, unless an exception warrants registration as a requirement. For example, a vessel needs to be registered if you ever plan on leaving Canadian waters in it, such as on an excursion to ports in the United States. 

Second, should your vessel be under 15 tons of gross tonnage, you have the option of entering it into either the Canadian Register of Vessels or the Small Vessel Register. Third, you will need to pay a registration fee, but it’s valid for as long as the vessel being registered remains under your ownership. With a licence, you’ll need to renew it every ten years.

Lastly, you must always keep your registration paperwork aboard the vessel along with any other relevant documents related to your ownership. As noted by Transport Canada, this is to protect you against complications related to fines, customs, or otherwise. It’s also important to note that commercial registrations are more complex with more unique terms and requirements. We recommend viewing the Frequently Asked Questions on Transport Canada’s website we linked above to further explore those details.

What if You Want to License and Register Your Boat?

Once again, referencing Transport Canada’s website, you cannot obtain a license and register your boat. It must be one or the other. This might sound confusing as many individuals have asked us, “Don’t I need a licence to operate a boat?” but it’s not exactly the case. In fact, you only need a pleasure craft licence if your boat has a total motor output capability of 10 horsepower or more (in wattage, this is 7.5 kilowatts). Bear this in mind when considering the type of boat you intend to purchase if you haven’t done so already, as personal pleasure craft are also subject to this rule.

So, what is a Boating Licence Exactly?

To help you further understand the importance of registering a boat in Ontario, let’s clear the air a little more on what exactly a boat licence is. For pleasure craft in particular, a licence is essentially a unique number assigned to the vessel in question. Like with the registration of the owner, designated port, and other similar details, a licence needs to be kept on board at all times and can also be applied for online purposes. If you go with a licence instead of registering your boat, this identifying number needs to be displayed clearly on the port and starboard sides of the hull.

This was just an overview of the fundamentals, but we hope our exploration of boat registry in Ontario – and clarifying how it differs from a licence – helps you make the best possible decision for your pleasure craft of choice. For assistance with marine insurance policies and protecting your investment, the Portside team is happy to help you ensure smooth sailing and years of peace of mind. Get in touch with us today or request a quote!

Recommended Posts