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Rendering Assistance to Other Boaters: Canadian Requirements

January 5, 2023

On Canada’s vast waterways, other recreational boaters are often closer and able to respond more quickly to a vessel in distress than search and rescue personnel. That’s why vessel operators in Canada are legally obligated to respond to distress signals and offer what help they can in the event of an emergency on the water.

When are you required to render assistance to another boater?

The Canada Shipping Act 2001 states that vessel operators are required to assist other boaters in distress. The law also applies for individuals and aircraft in distress. Upon receiving a distress signal (via VHF marine radio, a distress flare or similar) or an order from search and rescue to go to someone’s aid, boaters are required to proceed to the site of the emergency and render assistance where they can.

A vessel operator is exempt from this obligation if:

  • They learn that another vessel is already rendering assistance to those in distress
  • They are informed that assistance is no longer necessary
  • They deem it impossible, unreasonable or unnecessary to render assistance, in which case they must note their reasoning in detail in their vessel’s log book

Obligations in the event of a collision

In the event of a boat collision, those in charge of each vessel must:

  • Help the other vessel to save those aboard from any dangers resulting from the collision, as long as doing so will not endanger their own vessel
  • Stay with the other vessel until its operator has determined that they no longer require assistance
  • Exchange vessel names, operator and owner names and addresses

Fulfill your obligations with Drive a Boat Canada

Recreational vessel operators in Canada are subject to specific obligations, including the requirement to take a safety course to obtain their boating license. Take Drive a Boat Canada’s online boating course to get your license and learn everything you need to know about Canadian boating regulations and safety measures.