Are You Okay to Drive
Tick, tock goes the clock as it counts down to the September 15, 2009, deadline for the pleasure craft operator card (PCOC) required by Transport Canada. Operators of motor-driven personal watercraft, including Jet-Skis and Sea-Doos, need proof of competency or they could face a $250 fine. Boat licensing is a separate regulation.
So what’s the intention? It’s the last phase of a 10-year plan to reduce boating accidents, says Erin Johnson of Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety in Halifax. “It’s like the safety information we get to drive a car,” said Johnson. “We’re trying to promote safety for people to drive their boat. People must demonstrate a knowledge of the basic boating safety laws.”
Knowledge is appraised by a 36-question, multiple-choice-answer test administered by providers accredited by Transport Canada. The pass mark is 75%.
Although it sounds like a good idea, the strategy has been controversial. “The PCOC was originally intended to be perhaps more like an automobile license, from a competency point of view,” said Greg MacKay, training officer at the Blue Heron Power and Sail Squadron in Charlottetown, PEI. “Then, it was allowed to be offered by many groups, some of which decided to offer it online as long as the applicant was supervised. Another common approach is to offer exam challenges with no training at boat shows and shopping centres.”
Transport Canada has tightened the rules and now card providers must submit their tests for its approval. And more changes, such as increased auditing, a new and tougher exam, and a national cardholders registry, are possible.
For now, the Office of Boating Safety website lists accredited providers, including the Canadian Yachting Association, sailing schools, and Canadian Power and Sail squadrons, which are non-profit, volunteer organizations that teach the how-tos of power boating and sailing, ocean navigation and boating safety. All 10 provinces have branches.
With dated proof, marine safety certificate holders and those who have taken a boating course before April 1, 1999, can get a card without testing. Renters complete a dockside checklist provided by the rental operator. The card is good for life.
For more information, go to Transport Canada’s website.
The ABCs of the PCOC
A pleasure craft operator card is required if:
1. You operate a pleasure craft fitted with a motor and were born after April 1, 1983.
2. You operate a motorized pleasure craft under four metres (13 feet) in length (regardless of age). Jet-skis and Sea-Doos are included.
3. You were born before April 1, 1983, and operate a motorized pleasure craft four metres and over.
4. You are any crew member on a sailboat who operates the craft’s auxiliary motor.