Water transport has been used since the late 1800s when a sailing vessel, Keewatin , was purchased in 1890 to patrol Lake Winnipeg. A few months later it capsized during a storm and two crew members were lost. Steam-operated boats were used on the Yukon River for patrol and supply transport. The St. Roch , built for the Force in 1928, was designed for arctic service as a supply vessel and floating detachment. It was the first ship to navigate the Northwest Passage from Pacific to Atlantic and to circumnavigate the North American continent.
In 1932, Marine Section was formed with the RCMP takeover of Department of National Revenue Preventive Services' duties and vessels. With 35 ships (11 seagoing craft), its primary duty was to curtail smuggling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the east and west coasts.
At the start of World War II, Marine Section personnel and ships were transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. Marine Section was not re-established until 1945.
In 1947, Marine Section was made a Division with its headquarters in Halifax. Its responsibilities included enforcement of the Customs and Excise Act , the Canada Shipping Act , other federal statutes and rescue operations. Marine Division Headquarters was later transferred to Ottawa. Then in 1970, Marine Division as such was discontinued and various regional divisions took over the operational responsibility of providing marine services within their boundaries. Implementation and administration of policy was retained at Headquarters under a Marine Services Directorate. In 1974 the Directorate and its responsibilities were transferred to the newly organized Transport Management Branch, Services & Supply Directorate.
In 1994, Transport Management Branch was reorganized and incorporated with Materiel Management Branch. The procurement side of Transport has become a section of the Materiel Procurement function. The policy side of Transport is now known as Fleet Program Administration.
The Force now operates five patrol vessels (PVs) over 9.2 m (30.19 ft.) in length, one on the east coast and four on the west coast. All PVs are equipped with radar and the latest computer and electronic navigational aids. Under the control of divisional criminal operations officers, they provide marine transportation and regular patrol service to coastal areas that are inaccessible by land.
The Patrol Vessel Inkster, a 19.75 metre fast patrol aluminum catamaran, was accepted by the Force February 8, 1996. The vessel, which was constructed by Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. of North Vancouver, was officially commissioned on June 27th, 1996, in Prince Rupert B.C., home base for the vessel. The Inkster is powered and equipped similar to the other exisiting catamaran patrol vessels and carries a complement of 4 crew persons.
Class I — Nadon, Higgitt, Lindsay and Simmonds are 17.7 m (58 ft) fast patrol catamarans powered by twin 820 horsepower D2840 LE401 V-10 Man diesel engines and are capable of reaching a maximum speed of 36 knots. Simmonds is stationed on the south coast of Newfoundland, the rest are located on the Pacific Coast.
RCMP patrol vessels are staffed by regular members who have had the same training as regular personnel plus additional specific on-the-job training in navigation, seamanship or engine equipment operation. Navigators hold certificates of competency ranging from Watchkeeping Mate with a Command Endorsement to Master 350 Home-Trade. Crews range in size from three to four members depending upon the size of the vessel and the law enforcement workload. The vessels, depending upon their size, have either a sergeant or a corporal as captain.
In addition to patrol vessels, the Force owns and operates 377 smaller boats at various locations across Canada. Included in this number are all vessels less than 9.2 m (30.19 ft.) in length and range from canoes and car toppers to rigid-hulled inflatables and the very stable, commercially-built, inboard/outboard vessels. IWT are used for general investigations and for enforcement of the Canada Shipping Act, Small Vessel Regulations, Migratory Birds Convention Act, and various other federal or provincial statutes.