Importing a Vessel into Canada

If you are a vessel owner or operator planning to import a vessel for a project or to import a boat for registry in Canada, there are many rules and regulations to consider. The operation of foreign vessels in Canada is regulated by the Government of Canada’s Coasting Trade Act and enforced by several federal and provincial departments and agencies.

Below we provide an overview of the processes and procedures required when planning to import a boat into Canada. For your convenience, we have included the following along with additional details in a downloadable guide:

PF Collins Guide to Importing a Vessel into Canada (pdf)

Coasting Trade Act

Canada’s Coasting Trade Act protects the country’s marine industry by limiting vessel operations within Canada’s waters to Canadian-registered, duty paid vessels. While priority to engage in the coasting trade is given to Canadian-registered, duty paid vessels, the Act includes provisions for the temporary entry of foreign or non-duty paid vessels provided there are no Canadian-registered vessels available or capable to perform the required scope of work.

Foreign or non-registered, duty paid vessels must obtain a Coasting Trade Licence prior to beginning operations in Canada. Owners or operators (or agent on their behalf, such as PF Collins) must submit an application to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The success of the application is dependent upon the suitability and availability of any Canadian-registered vessels to complete the work.

Exemption for Seismic Vessels

To improve access to better seismic data for offshore development, Canada’s 2012 Economic Action Plan amended the Coasting Trade Act to remove the requirement for foreign seismic vessels to obtain a Coasting Trade Licence when undertaking oil and gas exploration on the continental shelf of Canada. Seismic vessels must still obtain a Coasting Trade Licence when conducting activities in the Territorial Sea of Canada.

Exemptions for Importing a Vessel under CETA

In 2017, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) introduced provisions to allow European Union entities to provide specific services without the requirement of a Coasting Trade Licence. These services include:

  • Feeder service between the Ports of Halifax and Montreal
  • Repositioning of empty containers
  • Dredging services

For more information about importing a vessel under CETA, email us at [email protected] or contact your nearest PF Collins office.

Duty and Tax Considerations when Importing a Vessel

All vessels entering Canada for temporary periods must pay the applicable duty and tax.

Imported vessels are typically subject to a duty rate of 25% of the fair market value, subject to any free trade agreements that apply (e.g. CETA). Duty is prorated for each month the vessel is operating in Canada.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is applied at a rate of 5% of the monthly duty-paid value of the vessel. The GST is fully refundable when the importer is a GST-registered entity with the Government of Canada.

A federal Excise Tax is also applied on marine diesel fuel, added to the normal domestic fuel price.

Immigration Considerations for Foreign Onshore and Offshore Personnel

Foreign crew entering Canada to work onboard the vessel must obtain a work permit prior to employment.

Service Canada issues Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) for crew onboard foreign vessels approved by the CBSA. It is expected that, where available, Canadians will have first opportunity to fill the positions. Therefore, the application process requires advertising for onboard positions and the inclusion of a succession plan for Canadian personnel.

When vessel operations are related to offshore oil and gas exploration or production, local petroleum boards may also require that local benefits provisions are met (e.g. Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board).

Safety Inspections

As a pre-requisite for the issuance of a Coasting Trade Licence, the vessel must undergo inspection at its first port of call in Canada to ensure compliance with the safety requirements of Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the local petroleum board.

We Can Help

From drillships and offshore construction vessels in Atlantic Canada to dredgers and accommodations vessels in British Columbia, PF Collins has assisted vessel owners and operators in meeting all the rules and regulations associated with importing a vessel into Canada.

Whether you need help with the importation of a vessel, assistance with crew changes, or expediting ships spares, our full suite of project logistics services ensure a successful project from start to finish.

For more information on how to import a boat into Canada, email us at [email protected] or contact your nearest PF Collins office.


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