What is USCG vessel documentation? What does it entail?

by | Friday, June 20, 2014 | 0 comment(s)

United States Coast Guard (USCG) vessel documentation is a national form of registration for vessels five net tons or more. A documented vessel is one registered by the federal government through the Coast Guard, rather than titled and numbered through the state.

Documented vessels will still need to be on compliance with state rules, so vessel owners will need to check with their state agency for specifics.

Obtaining Vessel Documentation

The requirements for obtaining vessel documentation are as follows:

  • Your vessel must be five net tons or more.
  • You must be a citizen of the United States.
  • You must meet the criteria specific to the endorsement you are seeking,e.g., coastwise, fishery.

Also, if you are applying for a fishery or coastwise endorsement, you will need to be able to establish that your vessel was built in the U.S. using U.S. parts.

To obtain a vessel certificate, you will need to submit an Application for Initial, Exchange or Replacement of Certificate of Documentation; Redocumentation to the National Vessel Documentation Center, along with your proof of citizenship, proof of ownership, and applicable fees.

Upon receiving your USCG vessel documentation, your vessel will be assigned a registration number. You’ll need to permanently affix your number on a clearly visible interior structural part of the hull.

Is vessel documentation required?

Many vessel owners, particularly recreational boaters, want to know whether or not vessel documentation is mandatory. The answer is: maybe. If the vessel is over five net tons (about 26 feet in length) and is engaged in certain commercial activities, yes, documentation is required.

If the vessel is only for certain recreational uses; is not used on US navigable waters or in the Exclusive Economic Zone; or is qualified for coastwise use within a harbor, on US rivers or lakes, or on the internal waters or canals, it does not require documentation.

If you are uncertain of whether or not your vessel requires documentation, you can contact the USCG to make an inquiry.

Benefits of USCG Vessel Documentation

D. N. Jones Documentation Service explains that there are five primary benefits of vessel documentation:

  • Title assurance – the USCG has more stringent title requirements than the state requires, proving you with better assurance of the title.
  • Foreign protection – documented vessels are property of the United States and have the protection of a U.S. flag vessel. Therefore, they are given clearance at foreign ports and offered certain protections when in international or foreign waters.
  • Marine financing – marine financiers require vessel documentation to secure interest by a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage recorded by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Prestige – boat owners may enjoy the prestige that accompanies vessel documentation.
  • Ease of sale – because ownership is easily verifiable, documented vessels have a lot less red tape to go through when they are sold from one party to another.

Keeping All Your Documents in Order

If and when you receive your USCG vessel certificate, keep all the pertinent paperwork in a safe location on your vessel. In addition to documentation, keep accurate logbooks to meet USCG standards. Feel free to peruse our selection of Premium Logbooks and download a free copy of our Logbook Quick Reference Guide.

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