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Operator card now mandatory for boaters

Boaters who head to the lake this weekend to escape the hot, sultry weather should remember to bring their Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) and life jacket, as both items are required by law.
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Boaters require a pleasure craft operator card (PCOC) by law in order to operate a motorized boat or craft (such as a seadoo). There must be a life jacket on board for every person. The OPP's SAVE unit will patrol lakes across Ontario to enforce and educate. File photo.

Boaters who head to the lake this weekend to escape the hot, sultry weather should remember to bring their Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) and life jacket, as both items are required by law.

The PCOC is required by law if a person intends to operate a motorized pleasure craft, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) explained. This includes boats with inboard or outboard motors, as well as jet skis.

Paddleboats and canoes (unless used with a motor) do not require operators to have a PCOC card.

Sgt. Oscar Horth, the unit commander of the OPP SAVE (Snowmobile, ATV, Vessel Enforcement) Unit, based in North Bay, issued a press release to remind boaters about the laws requiring operators to be certified.

"We did come across people who felt this was just another bureaucratic exercise," he explained. "We had to explain the laws were in the books now, and this is a requirement."

It's easy to take the exam online, Horth noted. The boater's exam is maintained by Transport Canada and is administered by a list of teachers it has licenced. One of the most common difficulty with the PCOC is the replacement of lost cards, Horth said.

"Some people have had them for a number of years, but the problem is the issuer may no longer be in their area," he said. "So if they've lost their card and and they need a replacement, and that (issuer) is no longer around, it can be difficult for them to get another copy."

Horth also wants to send a message about life jackets: they too are required by law.

"Typically what we find is, particularly when it comes to life jackets, most people are compliant," he noted.

Current legislation requires there be a life jacket on board for each boat occupant.

"Right now, there's nothing in legislation that requires you to wear (a life jacket)," Horth said. However, he said there have been some changes in the law about what qualifies as a life jacket in the last few years that people should be aware of.

"In the past they've had these seat cushions that were approved. They're no longer approved as a lifejacket. You have to have a jacket that is (Canadian Standards Association) approved and meets the specifications and meets a certain weight standard. It has to conform with your body size and weight."

But not being in compliance with boating laws doesn't necessarily mean a person will face fines, Horth said. He said he and his officers look at each situation individually, looking for safety issues.

"We're trying to address issues through enforcement, but we'd like to address them through education," Horth said. "What we're looking for is that people make the effort. We're looking for things where people are making the effort to have a safety or an approved life jacket in their boats."

For more information about boating laws in Canada, visit www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm.
For a list of licenced PCOC exam options, visit www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-paperwork-paperwork_operator-360.htm.
 




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