Marine Capsule

3. Registration, Canada and other countries


There are two types of registration in Canada:

  • Pleasure Craft Licence, once called  Vessel Licence
  • Certificate of Registry

Pleasure Craft Licence


Registration with Transport Canada of a boat. The licence number includes one or 2 letters identifying the province that issued the first licence for the boat. Ex.: 55E12345 or ON554321.

Obligation and restriction for the boat

  • Have one or more motors with the total power of 10 hp or more (7.36 kW)
  • Have the right to freely navigate in Canada (taxes paid, not "in bond")
  • Not currently have a Certificate of Registry (“Blue Book”)
  • Not having the obligation to have a Certificate of Registry according to law


This issuance process is managed by Service Canada since April 2006. Previously it was managed by the Canada Customs and Accise. Everything is centralized in Fredericton, NB, Canada.

For information on the licence we suggest you contact Service Canada at the following number::
(800) 622-6232
or visit their Web site: Pleasure Craft Licences


To verify if debts exist against the vessel, it is necessary to contact the provincial security management systems (i.e.: RDPRM for Quebec, PPSA for some other provinces of Canada)

It is impossible, except for a few exceptions, to obtain vessel owner details from the licence number

Certificate of Registry


Legal process allowing a boat, that will be called ship, to be considered somehow as an individual.

The vessel will have a “civil status” considered as such all over the world

  • A citizenship (Canadian)
  • A specific name, unique in Canada. Two vessels names may not have the same sounding or have a close sounding causing people to be mislead
  • A 6 digit registration number, the Official Number. This number is carved on a metal plate (Carving Plate) affixed in a permanent way, inside the boat
  • A classification (Pleasure boating, fishing, passengers, etc.)
  • A home(Home port of registry)
  • Legal status defining as being composed of 64 undivided shares

An official document, more or less considered as a Canadian passport for the boat, will be issued: The Certificate of Registry. A few years ago, this document was called "Blue Book" because strangely it looked like a book with blue cover.


  • Any vessel may be registered in Canada
  • To travel easily from country to country (the identification is easy throughout the world)
  • To keep the boat out of the country without having to pay any Duty fees, GST or PST in Canada
  • Allows the registration of marine mortgages. For more details on financing, see Marine Capsule no. 9, Marine Credit
  • Easily allows the separation of the 64 shares between several owners. For more details, see Marine Capsule no. 4, Ownership of a registered vessel
  • Could allows to determine in advance, who will be the owner after the death the owner(s) (by the "Right of Survivorship" or specific number of shares)
  • Facilitate the sale (title search system is more secure)


  • This is the only Canadian registration issued for a boat for which Canadian due taxes have not been paid. The boat must stay outside of Canada. Boats kept outside Canada (“In Bond”) are detailed in Marine Capsule no. 10, Taxes, duties and fees
  • Mandatory for the registration of marine mortgages


  • The issuance of the Certificate of Registry is handled through Transport Canada in Ottawa. There are regional offices called Ports of Registry in all the provinces
  • Different statutory documents must be filled and signed
  • The signature of the applicant must be notarized on one of the documents because, according to the law, it is considered as a declaration of Canadian citizenship or legal permanent residence
  • The chain of titles of ownership must be clearly established
  • The original of the ownership document of the applicant must be presented with a proof of full payment to the seller
  • Legal costs will incure


  • The owner must be Canadian citizen or permanent resident according to the immigration law of migration or be a company registered in virtue of the Canadian law or of one of its provinces. The trusts are excluded. A registered name is accepted at the condition it belongs to a qualified corporation.
  • If the boat measures more than 15 metres (49ft. 2 in.) the boat must be surveyed for its tonnage by a Ship Tonnage Surveyor. This also applies for a boat in which the superstructure represents more than 70 % of the over all length or is a multi hull (catamarans or else) or having 2 or more bridges.
  • The boat must be paid in full before the issuance of the Certificate of registry. For more details, refer to Capsule no. 9, Marine credit.


The search system is adequate for the country. Searches usually start with obtaining a “Ship Transcript of Registry”.

The names of the owners are mentioned so are the original amounts of existing registered debts, mortgages or seizures. The amount of the selling prices are confidential.


United States

Certificate of Documentation

This registration, letter size document, looks a bit like an insurance policy by its frame drawing. It is equivalent, for its legal status, to the Canadian Certificate of Registry.

  • The system, for the whole country, is centralized in Western Virginia
  • Several vessel may have the same name
  • Each boat has its own Official Number
  • Most of the boats navigating on the seas have such a registry
  • The vessels have a home (port of registry)
  • The “Right of survivorship” applies (JTRS Joint Tenant with Right of Survivorship). See Marine Capsule no. 4, Property of a registered vessel
  • The search system of titles is adequate
  • Marine mortgages may be easily registered. In this country they are called “Preferred Mortgages”

Certificate of Title

Often just called the “Title”, it looks like to an official insurance document. It is, most of the time, smaller than letter size. It is usually colored and has a colored frame. It could be compared to a Canadian Pleasure Craft Licence but much more developed. In some states, the registration system may be verified. Often, if debts exist on the boat, the name of the lender is mentioned on the certificate itself.

Two state do not issue vessel Certificates of Title: Alabama and Louisiana.

Vessel Registration

Several states issue a “Registration” for boats. It may have the size of a car driver’s licence certificate. The search on such a registration is somewhat lengthy and difficult. The value of these boats is usually low.


In France, this document looks alike a small orange colored flexible booklet. The names of the lenders, if any, are mentioned. The registration system is jointly managed by the “Affaires maritimes” and the “Douanes françaises” The French territories have the same type of registration (St-Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique, etc). Search reveal some complexities but are accurate.

British Commonwealth Countries

Certificate of Registry

Most of the countries of the British Commonwealth (they are 51), have registration systems almost similar to the Canadian one. They have the 64 share ownership and the Right of Survivorship. See Capsule no. 4, Property of a registered vessel.

Several countries still have the old Canadian Certificate of Registry presentation. The “Blue Book” but each one has its preferred shade of blue.

International agreements

Because almost every country in the world hasa signed the Brussels International Agreements, their Certificate of Registry systems and mortgage registration systems are quite reliable.

The search work gets more difficult when the boat registration is something other than a federal certificate of registry. This requires, as in Canada, local, longer and more cumbersome search.

The work required for  a search is worthwhile when the coveted boat is sold for a considerable price.

Closing of foreign registry

When a vessel registered in one country is sold to a person of another country, the vessel’s registration of the seller’s country must be officially closed otherwise, the purchaser may have the boat in “his hands” but not be the official owner. This is also relevant for Canada.

Example of Registry and Registry Closing Document

Certificate of Registry
Deletion Certificate
United States
Certificate of Documentation Deletion Certificate
Acte de francisation Radiation de pavillon
United Kingdom
Certificate of British Registry Closing Transcript
Certificate of Identity Deletion Certificate

This writing is a short summary of some of the topics to consider in relation with a vessel purchase, sale or credit.

Each transaction is a special case.


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