Language selection


Canadian Aids to Navigation System 2011
Private Aids to Navigation

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

Private Aids to Navigation


In Canada, it is permissible for private individuals, clubs, corporations or other groups to establish aids to navigation or mooring buoys for their own use. Such aids to navigation are known as “private aids” and they are advertised accordingly in the List of Lights, Buoys and Fog Signals as well as on the charts. They are defined as those aids to navigation or mooring buoys which are not operated by Federal or Provincial government or agency. The Canadian Coast Guard considers any aid owned by a Municipal government to be private.

The Canadian Coast Guard recognizes the value of these aids in contributing to the safety and well-being of the boating community. The use of private aids shall be encouraged to meet local demands when Canadian Coast Guard aids are not justified by existing policies and directives.

Private Buoys

All private buoys are governed by the Private Buoys Regulations. These regulations specify the required marking, size, and identification of private buoys and require that they comply with this publication. The Minister of Transport is responsible for the development, implementation and enforcement of these regulations including the removal or directing the removal or modification of any non-compliant private buoys. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to be responsible for the implementation, management and delivery of the Canadian Aids to Navigation Systems and for all technical publications related thereto.

Private Fixed Aids

Private fixed aids which are in navigable waters and are constructed below the high water mark are considered works under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Minister of Transport may impose any terms and conditions on the approval of a work, including lights, marks and buoys. The act authorizes the Minister of Transport to order the removal or alteration and, if the order is not complied with, to remove any work that has not been approved; does not comply with the act; or with the terms and conditions of the approval.

Private Mooring Buoys

Transport Canada considers mooring buoys as “works” under the Navigable Water Protection Act, since they usually secure vessels in fixed locations (e.g. docks, piers, or wharves), and do not aid or direct mariners. This means that the placement of a mooring buoy is subject to review and approval under the act, unless otherwise excluded under Transport Canada’s policies and standards


In the event of an accident involving a private aid, the person(s) owning that aid to navigation may be held liable for any damages resulting from negligent operation and/or maintenance of the aid. Owners are advised to take all necessary precautions to ensure that private aids conform to international and Canadian Coast Guard standards and are operated and maintained in the proper manner. The purchase of liability insurance is recommended.


The Navigable Water Protection Program is responsible for all aspects of the Private Buoy Regulations and Navigable Water Protection Act, including enforcement. For more information, please contact your local Navigable Water Protection Program office or consult Transport Canada’s publication An Owner’s Guide to Private Buoys.

Markings and Dimensions

In the Canada Shipping Act 2001, Private Buoy Regulations, all private buoys in Canada are required to conform to the aids to navigation standards set out herein. As such, all requirements for buoy identification and marking, apart from those relating to size and lettering, are described throughout this manual.

The Private Buoy Regulations require that private buoys meet minimum above water dimensions of 15.25 cm (6 inches) in width and 30.5 cm (12 inches) in height. This should be regarded as the absolute minimum, suitable only for very sheltered, low traffic areas. In general, the buoy should be large enough to be seen at the distance for which its signal can be interpreted to allow for timely action by the mariner. Consideration should be given to both adverse weather conditions and varying sea states. The Private Buoy Regulations allow Transport Canada the authority to require buoys to be larger than the minimum, be equipped with retroreflective material, or be altered in any other way in the interest of safety (e.g. addition of lights, sound appliances, etc.) in accordance with prevailing site conditions.

The Private Buoy Regulations also require that buoys display, on two opposite sides, the capital letters “PRIV”. These letters are to be as large as practical for the size of the buoy and contrasting in colour: white when the background colour is red, green or black, and black when the background colour is white or yellow. Additionally, the current name, address and telephone number of the owner of the buoy must be displayed in a permanent and legible manner.

If the owner of a private buoy wishes to place additional numbers or letters on a buoy for identification purposes, the number or letter system must not correspond to the letter and number system used by the Canadian Coast Guard in that immediate area. This serves to ensure that there is no confusion between government-operated aids, private aids and any other charted aids.

Public Notification

When a private aid is placed or erected in or near charted waters, it is desirable to provide the Canadian Coast Guard with sufficient information to allow for publication of their positions and characteristics in marine notices (Notices to Mariners; Notices to Shipping) and for charting of the buoy(s) by the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Such information and any changes to existing charted buoys should be transmitted to the nearest Canadian Coast Guard office or to a Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre.

Date modified: