How to register a boat in Alberta

8 minute read Published on Apr 11, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

A small speedboat powering through the water.

There’s a reason boating is a popular summertime activity in Alberta. With over 600 lakes and 200 rivers, the province is a boat lover’s paradise. But if you have a boat in Alberta, then it’s important to register it. In fact, in some cases, it might even be mandatory to do so, much like how it’s required to register a car in Alberta. For more information on boat registration, the BrokerLink team has put together the following guide to registering your boat in Alberta.

Is boat registration mandatory in Alberta?

First thing’s first, is it mandatory for Alberta boat owners to register their watercrafts? It depends. Registration is compulsory for certain types of vessels but not for others. The main type of vessel that is not required to be registered is pleasure crafts. However, it’s generally still wise to do so due to the benefits it provides. Meanwhile, it is mandatory to register the following types of watercrafts with the province:

  • Commercial vessels
  • Commercial river crafts
  • Barges
  • Government-owned vessels
  • Vessels with a marine mortgage
  • Vessels travelling outside of Canadian waters

The boat registration process in Alberta

Now that you know whether you are legally required to register your Alberta boat or not, let’s dive further into the boat registration process.

The first step in this process is to fill out the boat registry form correctly, which can be obtained from the Transport Canada website. You will need to fill out and submit the boat registry form, which will require you to supply information such as your proof of Canadian citizenship and your proof of boat ownership. Examples of documents showing these include a valid Canadian passport and a builder’s certificate. You will also need to provide basic information about the type of vessel you are registering, such as the type and method of propulsion used by the boat, the number of engines in the boat, the type of tonnage, the type of construction, the name of the builder, and the intended use of the boat. Please note that not just anyone can register a boat in Alberta, or any Canadian province for that matter. Only Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, Canadian corporations, foreign corporations, and federal and provincial Canadian governments have the right to own and register a vessel. That said, non-citizens are allowed to own pleasure crafts and receive a licence for those pleasure crafts, which we explain in further detail below. For more information on the difference between title and registration, get in touch with BrokerLink.


Pleasure craft licensing vs. vessel registry in Alberta

When discussing the topic of boat registration in Alberta, it’s important to distinguish between vessels and pleasure crafts. Pleasure crafts, as mentioned above, do not need to be registered with the province whereas vessels do. Further, pleasure crafts can be owned by non-citizens in Canada and can be licensed. Meanwhile, there are several restrictions surrounding who can own and register a vessel in the country. Understanding the differences between the two, especially as it pertains to the boat registration process is crucial. A pleasure craft licence is not the same as a vessel registration in Alberta, which we outline below:

Pleasure craft licensing

A pleasure craft licence is a set of ID numbers you receive, which can be used by Search and Rescue personnel to identify your boat. You will receive a card with this ID number, and this card must be on-board at all times or you could be fined. The ID card you receive will also have the captain’s name and address. Your boat’s ID Number must also be displayed on the boat’s bow so that it can be easily seen by others, similar to a licence plate on a car. Specifically, the characters in the ID must be no less than seven centimetres tall and printed in a colour that stands out against the colour of the boat. Note that pleasure craft licences in Alberta are typically valid for ten years, and licensing a boat is free of charge. In most cases, pleasure craft licensing is mandatory if you plan to use your boat in Alberta waters. The only exception is if you purchased the boat within the last 90 days.

Vessel registry

Unlike pleasure craft licensing, vessel registry is a more serious and elaborate form of identification. It also proves ownership of the boat, whereas a pleasure craft licence does not; you will need to retain a copy of the bill of sale and have it on board at all times to prove this. When you register your vessel with Transport Canada, you will receive proof of ownership (i.e. legal title to the vessel), an official name and number for your vessel, and the right to use your vessel as security for a marine mortgage.

Please note that, unlike pleasure craft licensing, registering a vessel with Transport Canada costs money - $250 to be exact. However, there are several advantages to registering your boat rather than simply licensing it, such as getting to select an official boat name and having the port of registry displayed on the front of your boat. Just like how your pleasure craft’s licence ID number must be displayed on the front of the boat, so too must the name and port of your boat after the vessel registry is complete.

The benefits of registering a boat in Alberta

Now that you know a little bit more about the boat registration process in Alberta, we’re going to discuss the benefits of registering a boat. Even if you own a pleasure craft and vessel registration is not mandatory, there are plenty of advantages that come with doing so:

  • You will receive legal title to the boat: In other words, the boat will legally be under your ownership. This proof of ownership can come in handy, especially if you intend to cruise into international waters.
  • You get to choose an official name for your boat: Naming a boat is half the fun! By registering your vessel, you will get to select a unique name for it. When you submit the registration form, you should include three possible names for your vessel, in case one or more is already taken. The registry will then choose one name to approve.
  • You can fly the Canada flag on your boat: Feeling patriotic? If your vessel is registered with Transport Canada, you earn the right to fly the Canadian flag on your boat.
  • You have the option of obtaining a marine mortgage for your boat: This can be a huge perk, especially if you wish to purchase a large vessel that you cannot afford to buy without a mortgage loan.

The importance of boat insurance

Once you’ve registered your boat in Alberta, there is still one more thing to consider: Boat insurance. Boat insurance is a type of insurance that is uniquely designed to protect watercrafts from a range of unforeseen circumstances. Liability claims and property damage are the two main risks that boat insurance can protect you against. For instance, the right boat insurance policy can protect you, your watercraft, and the belongings on it if they are damaged due to theft, vandalism, or a collision, as well as protect you if you accidentally injure or damage another person’s property with your boat while driving it.

Boat insurance requirements

Boat insurance, unlike auto insurance, is not a legal requirement in Canada. That said, there are still many reasons why boat owners should purchase it. The coverage it offers is the main reason, which we describe in detail below.

Boat insurance coverage

Your coverage needs depend on factors like the age of your boat and how it’s used. Here’s a breakdown of coverages often included with boat insurance and additional coverage options:

  • Property coverage
  • Liability coverage
  • Temporary replacement coverage
  • Agreed value coverage
  • Navigational extension coverage

Factors impacting the cost of boat insurance policies

How much boat insurance will cost you depends on a number of factors. As with home or car insurance, insurers consider several variables when calculating your premium. Some of the most significant factors influencing boat insurance rates are as follows:

Where your boat is stored

The storage location you select for your boat can play a huge role in determining your premium. At the end of the day, damage to your boat can occur whether it’s on the water or in storage. However, some storage locations significantly reduce the odds of damage happening, which can bring down rates. For example, boats that are stored in private marinas with minimal boat traffic or in covered boat houses might allow you to qualify for a cheaper rate. Oppositely, boats that are stored in crowded, high traffic areas or areas prone to major storms, may result in higher premiums.

Driving record

As with auto insurance, your driving record can have a significant impact on how much you pay for boat insurance. Maintaining a clean boating record is extremely important. The more infractions you’ve racked up, the riskier you seem as a policyholder, and the more expensive your policy is likely to be.

Experience with boat ownership

Have you owned a boat before? Do you have years of experience captaining vessels just like yours? This can work in your favour. As with anything else, the more experience you have, the less risky you will seem to an insurance provider, especially if you’ve managed to maintain a clean driving record. Therefore, the amount of years you’ve spent boating coupled with your record and claims history is likely to impact your premium.

Where you drive your boat

Where you store and park your boat matters, but so too does where you drive your boat. Certain bodies of water are more prone to risk than others, whether that be because they see more boat traffic throughout the year or frequently experience extreme weather events. When you apply for a boat insurance policy, you will need to provide information on your boat’s primary navigation area. An insurer will use this to determine your rates.

Boating safety tips

Before you hit the water, read through these important boating safety tips:

  • Anytime you plan on taking the boat out, let someone know where you are going, who you will be with, and when you intend to return home.
  • Leave extra space when cruising by large watercrafts.
  • Install a monitored alarm system or anti-theft device on your boat.
  • Do not drive impaired, e.g. from alcohol, cannabis, narcotics, etc.
  • Never leave valuables on board when your boat is unattended.
  • Make sure you have safety and emergency equipment on board at all times.
  • Equip your boat with lights if you cruise at night.
  • Always wear an approved personal floatation device while on board, and make sure all passengers follow suit.

Contact BrokerLink for more information regarding watercrafts

Are you looking to get your boat ready for summer? Contact BrokerLink today. We can make sure you have everything you need to enjoy your summer on the water. From quality boat insurance coverage to boat safety tips, we can help you with any of your watercraft questions or concerns. Get in touch to speak with a licensed insurance broker in Alberta. We can be reached by phone, email, or in person.