Entering by Boat - The Basic Law

The captain of a recreational boat is the person in charge. As Captain he or she is required to go to a designated telephone reporting marine site and call the telephone reporting center at 1-888-226-7277. No one except the captain may leave the boat until the CBSA gives authorization.


The captain is required to follow these steps:

Reduce Your Stress

When it comes to Canadian Customs, like most other countries, a little advance planning and preparation will go a long way in making the entry procedure faster and a little less painful.

Your first contact with Canadian Customs will likely be by telephone at one of the TRS/M’s discussed previously. So, before you reach the dock and call CBSA, be sure to have all the required paperwork readily available.

  1. Get all of the boat's documents together in a central location.(Documentation / Registration papers, clearance document from your last port of call (if applicable), letter of authority from the owner if not your vessel, etc.)
  2. Have all your passenger’s and crew's passports or other acceptable documentation ready for inspection.
  3. They are going to ask you about what you are carrying or have on board that you are bringing into Canada (Do you have anything to declare?). What you have to decide, are the few dollars that you may have to pay in duty fees worth the penalties you will incur for not declaring something and it is found during a routine search? If you are not sure about something err on the side of caution and either ask the customs officer or just declare it and let the customs officer decide.

Collect the following information so that you will have it available to you when you make your call to Customs (having this information on a single piece of paper will be a big help rather than trying to read it off of a number of different documents and passports):

  1. Name of Vessel
  2. Documentation / Registration Number
  3. LOA
  4. Flag
  5. Homeport
  6. Your current location
  7. Your arrival Time
  8. Return call contact phone number
  9. Full name, DOB, citizenship, address, and passport number of all persons on board
  10. Your last port of call and departure date
  11. Have a list, with values, of anything you or the crew are required to declare or simply be ready to state that you nor your passengers and crew have "nothing to declare."

You should have pen and paper with you when you call to take notes. If you get lucky and they clear you in over the phone, you will need to copy your entry number, the customs officer’s name, and the date and time. DO NOT LOSE THIS INFORMATION! - You could be asked for it at any time during your visit to Canada. Typically, I enter this information into the boat’s logbook. That way I will always know where it is and hopefully prevent its loss.

If onsite verification is to be conducted, the border services officer at the TRC will advise the master to remain at the site and to ensure that all goods and passengers remain on board until the verification team arrives. The verification team will conduct the verification and provide the master with a report number. The master must give this number to a border services officer upon request.

It also wouldn't hurt to remind your crew and passengers about the penalties of trying to bring in illegal contraband.

On a personal note: the fines, while sizable, are one thing. Having customs seize my boat and my name now permanently linked to smuggling illegal contraband and placed in law enforcement databases around the world, well that is something else again. I can only speak for myself, but this would put me in a very bad mood for a very long time.

Important Things to Remember

While most recreational boaters in the U.S. are not required to have a license or permit to operate their VHF radio, this is not the case in Canada.

Foreign vessels operating in Canadian territorial waters may not operate their marine radios unless they hold a current ship station license and radio operators permit issued by their home country.


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