Confusion About VHF Radio Licenses for U.S. Boats Cruising in Canada

May 17, 2000

There's been confusion about VHF radio license requirements for U.S. pleasure craft cruising in Canada. Here's the straight scoop on the situation:

For some time, the U.S. has not required pleasure craft under 20 meters (65 feet) to have station licenses or individual operator permits for travel in U.S. waters. For foreign travel, a station license is required for the vessel, and individual operator permits are required for the people.

Beginning in 2000, Canada exempted its pleasure craft under 20 meters (65 feet) from VHF radio station license requirements, and also removed individual operator requirements for those vessels, as long as the vessel is used in Canadian and U.S. waters only.

With neither country requiring VHF radio licensing for its pleasure craft under 20 meters, it was natural to assume that U.S. boats no longer needed station licenses for Canadian travel.

Unfortunately, the U.S. regulation requiring licensing for U.S. pleasure craft in foreign waters is still on the books. It's supposed to be revoked, at least for travel in Canada. But it hasn't been revoked—yet.

What about enforcement? The reality is that the U.S. Coast Guard does not check VHF radio licensing for U.S. pleasure craft, because in U.S. waters no licensing is required. Neither does the U.S. Coast Guard go into Canadian waters to enforce U.S. VHF radio licensing regulations. In Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and RCMP have no interest in enforcing U.S. regulations.

So nobody is looking at, nor are they about to look at, this obscure regulation requiring U.S. boats and their people to be licensed if they cruise in Canada. Given these circumstances, what should the U.S. boater do? We'll leave the decision up to each individual.

We would not dream of suggesting that because an obscure regulation cannot be enforced it could safely be ignored.

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