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Canadian Aids to Navigation System 2011
Related Legislation

Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) in Canada

On December 15th, 2022, the Canadian Coast Guard has permanently discontinue the provision of its DGPS service across Canada.

Discontinuing this service aligns with Coast Guard’s efforts to modernize marine navigation services and find alternatives to aging DGPS infrastructures.

Table of Content

Related Legislation

Canada Shipping Act, 2001

Part V, Chapter 26, Section 129

Obligation to report damage

129. (1) If a vessel, or anything towed by a vessel, runs down, moves, damages or destroys an aid to navigation in Canadian waters, the person in charge of the vessel shall, without delay, make a report to a marine communications and traffic services officer or, if that is not feasible, to an officer of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Obligation to report – navigation hazard

(2) A person in charge of a vessel in Canadian waters who discovers an uncharted hazard to navigation, or discovers that an aid to navigation is missing, out of position or malfunctioning, shall make a report without delay to a marine communications and traffic services officer or, if that is not feasible, to an officer of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995

The Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act require that the master and vessel owners carry the most recent editions of charts, publications and documents updated with the Monthly Edition of Notices to Mariners, published for the area in which the vessel is navigating.

If the ship is equipped with radio equipment:

and if the ship is making a voyage during which ice may be encountered:

This requirement may be waived if the person in charge of navigation has sufficient knowledge of shipping routes; lights, buoys and marks; and navigational hazards, as well as prevailing navigational conditions and weather patterns.

Canadian nautical charts and some publications are available from over 700 authorized Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart Dealers located across the country and internationally. 

Collision Regulations

These Regulations define the conduct which every vessel, in any water, must follow in order to avoid a collision. Requirements for the carriage of on-board navigational aids, such as lights and sounding appliances, guidelines detailing safe operations, and standards for the use of aids to navigation are also included.

It is of particular interest to mariners to note the similarities between these Regulations, other Coast Guard standards and common private practices in terms of light colours and flash characters. The following is a list of light requirements, under this Act, which may be confused with other standard lighting requirements (e.g. blue flashing lights are often used by private individuals for the purpose of marking harbour entrances; yellow flashing lights indicate the existence of special buoys).

Flashing Yellow

A yellow light in which a flash is regularly repeated at a frequency of 120 flashes per minute or more.


Air cushion vessels when operating in non Displacement mode.

Special Flashing Yellow

A yellow light flashing at regular intervals at a frequency of 50 to 70 flashes per minute.


Vessels being pushed.

Flashing Blue

A blue light in which a flash is regularly repeated at a frequency of 50 to 70 flashes per minute.


Any government or police vessel while engaged in duties.

Morse “U”

A white light in which two short flashes is followed by one long flash, the whole sequence being repeated two times per minute.


Stationary exploration or exploitation vessel.

Mariners should be knowledgeable with respect to the existence of these similarities and are urged to be aware of their presence on Canadian waters.

Private Buoy Regulations

The Private Buoy Regulations apply to all private buoys placed as aids to navigation – except those used to mark fishing apparatus, unless otherwise directed by Transport Canada officials. These regulations exist to make sure that Canadian private buoys conform to accepted international and Canadian Coast Guard standards.

The regulations describe the size and markings required for each buoy, as well as the responsibilities of the person(s) placing them. While the requirements for the colour, shape, placement and use of private buoys are the same as those for buoys maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard, private buoy identification markings must conform to the Private Buoy Regulations – not the number and letter identification system used by the Canadian Coast Guard.

To comply with the main principles of the regulations:

  1. Do not place a private buoy that will/may interfere with the navigation of any vessel, or that will/may mislead any boater.
  2. Do not place a private buoy in any water unless all size, shape and identification requirements are met and all required information is accurate.
  3. Make sure that all private buoys meet the Canadian Aids to Navigation System standards and guidelines described herein.
  4. Understand that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (the Minister) may require changes to a private buoy, such as size or adding retroreflective material, when there is a need for improved visibility or better identification.
  5. Use, build and install anchors that will keep the buoy in position.
  6. When needed, use lighted buoys that meet the Canadian Aids to Navigation System standards, during the hours of darkness or periods of poor visibility.
  7. Understand that when a private buoy does not meet legal standards, the Minister may order you to modify it to meet current standards or remove it.


Consult the full text of the Regulations or the Owner’s Guide To Private Buoys for further details.

Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations

The Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations govern the marking of any private buoy used to restrict navigation (e.g. speed limits, keep-out areas, etc.). Under these regulations, requests for restrictions are (a) originated by local authorities; and then (b) sent to Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety for final review and publication in the regulations.

Quebec, Alberta and Ontario each have a designated provincial authority. In those provinces, the Provincial authority reviews the applications before they are submitted to Transport Canada.

To comply with the main principles of the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations:

  1. Do not place a sign that restricts the operation of any vessel in Canadian waters without the authorization of the Minister. Signs must comply with the regulations requirements.
  2. Do not change, hide, damage or destroy any authorized sign or use a sign for mooring purposes.
  3. Respect restrictions conveyed in an authorized sign when boating.
  4. Do not hold a sporting, recreational, or public event in waters specified in Schedule 8 of the regulations, unless authorized by a permit issued by the Minister.
  5. Do not hold a sporting, recreational, or public event in any waters in a manner or at a place that would unnecessarily obstruct navigation.
  6. Do not place signs or symbols on control buoys and keep-out buoys unless they are otherwise authorized under the Act or another Act of Parliament, such as the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Under these regulations, an enforcement officer may direct or prohibit the movement of vessels to ensure compliance with the requirements for safe vessel operation.

Any person who does not comply with these regulations may be charged with an offence. In provinces where the provisions of the Contraventions Act apply, offenders will normally be ticketed. A schedule of fines is shown in the Contraventions Regulations.

A complete listing of Provincial contacts for boating safety information and permits is included at the end of this publication. For full details of these provisions consult the full text of the Canada Shipping Act 2001, Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations.

Criminal Code of Canada

Section 439 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides:


  1. Everyone who makes fast a vessel or boat to a signal, buoy or other seamark that is used for purposes of navigation is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  2. Everyone who wilfully alters, removes or conceals a signal, buoy or other seamark that is used for purposes of navigation is guilty of an indictable offence and liable for imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
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