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What is the difference if I have a "registered vessel " or not?

Why go through the bother? What must I do before I can buy a registered vessel? If its not registered what is it? Can I use the license number of the previous owner? What if I don't have either?

Most boats in the Georgian Bay area are not registered and this is usually not required. Most of us think of "the boat" as something we uncover, dust off, put in the water, fill up with fuel, and away we go. Is this what we do to our cars? Certainly there is more to responsible boating than this. There are many things to know, but what? Subjects such as registration, licensing, buying a boat, selling a boat, insuring a boat, complying with regulations for outfitting, the law of vessel operation, accidents, rescue and salvage are just some of the issues that may arise from time to time.


A pleasure yacht (no passengers) under 20 tons and ships under 15 tons registered tonnage need not be registered. Any ship, except those propelled by oars or paddles, may be registered. The ownership of such a vessel must be wholly by a Canadian or British subject. A ship is divided into 64 shares (and one share may beneficially be owned by more than one person). A registered ship must generally be built in Canada, although permission to register a ship under 20 tons is generally given. Note that duty must be paid on foreign built vessels.


Canada Customs at a Canadian port, which has been approved can register a ship. This is a "PORT OF REGISTRY" having a register book recording the particulars of ships. The local port for registry is Midland, but the office is located in Barrie. Before registration a ship must receive a SURVEY by a surveyor of ships (approved by the Minister of Transport) who will determine the ship's tonnage, construction, and other features which are then submitted to the registry. A NAME must be approved by the registrar before being used and will be disallowed if already that of a British ship. The ship's OFFICIAL NUMBER and tonnage will be cut into its main beam. Although there is a requirement that a scale of feet be marked on the stem and stern post, the Minister of Transport makes an exemption for pleasure vessels. An APPLICATION FOR REGISTRY is made by the owner along with a DECLARATION OF OWNERSHIP containing 1) a statement that the owner is qualified to own the ship, 2) the time and place of construction, 3) the number of shares to which the owner is entitled, 4) a declaration that no disqualified (non British subject) is an owner, 5) a BUILDER'S CERTIFICATE (for a first registration), 6) a BILL OF SALE. Once complete the registrar will then 1) enter the ship in the registry book, and 2) issue a CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRY (to be carried on board at all times) which is evidence of title and national character of the vessel.

Registration ends if the owner is not qualified to own a British ship, through transfer of the vessel to an unqualified person, or if the vessel ceases to be a ship.


Registered vessels may be mortgaged under the Canada Shipping Act. If the owner has debts to others or if a bank has the vessel as security, then a potential buyer must check these out. This is not always easy. There are rules for the marking of the name and port of registry on the hull. The Queen can even commandeer a registered vessel.

Most aspects of owning a registered vessel do not change how the owner operates or cares for the vessel. The most common differences occur when buying, selling, financing, or collecting a debt owing. In this way a registered vessel is like a house because there are many hidden rules and possible debts that the new owner should know. If an owner or potential owner has questions, or does not even know where to begin, they should consult a lawyer.

To transfer a registered vessel to a new owner there must be: 1) a contract for sale, 2) a bill of sale containing a description of the vessel and details in a form as required by the Canada Shipping Act, 3) a "declaration of transfer" setting out that the new owner is qualified to own a "British ship", and 4) an "appointment of a managing owner".


Most power boats on Georgian Bay must be licenced. Vessels with 7.5 kilowatts (10 hp) or more, if pleasure craft and less than 20 registered tons or if commercial craft and less than 15 registered tons, must be licenced. Licences are available at customs offices and are to be transferred when ownership is transferred. If the owner sells the boat it is required that he or she give the customs house the new owner's name and address. The new owner must then make a separate application form or a transfer form to the customs house. Then a new licence is issued to the new owner with the old licence number. The vessel must be marked with the licence number in contrasting colour to the hull in figures at least 7.7mm (3") in height on each side of the vessel's bow. Remember that a licence is not ownership. A Bill of Sale is the only conclusive proof of who owns the boat. Make sure you get both a Bill of Sale and the Licence when you get your "new" old boat. If you are in the Midland/Penetanguishene/Georgian Bay area and require assistance in purchasing a used boat, the law firm of Deacon Taws would be pleased to assist you.


The foregoing articles are meant for informational purposes only and are not to be taken as legal advice. In the case of any questions, issues or needs arising from the above please contact us at Admin@deacontaws.com, Phone: (705)526-3791 or Fax: (705)526-2688



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