Boat Documents And Documentation Requirements
Here are some commonly asked questions about boat
- What is Vessel Documentation?
- What vessels may be documented?
- Must my Vessel be Documented?
- How do I know if my vessel measures five net tons?
- What vessels are exempt?
- Are there different types of documentation?
- What are the requirements for documentation?
- How is vessel ownership established?
- How do I establish US Citizenship?
- Why and how is build evidence established?
- What are the vessel name and hailing port marking requirements?
- How do I mark my vessel?
- How do I change the name or hailing port of my vessel?
- Why does the Coast Guard require designation of a managing
- What is a preferred mortgage?
WHAT IS VESSEL DOCUMENTATION?
Vessel documentation is a national form of registration. It is
one of the oldest functions of Government, dating back to the
11th Act of the First Congress. Documentation provides
conclusive evidence of nationality for international purposes,
provides for unhindered commerce between the states, and admits
vessels to certain restricted trades, such as coastwise trade
and the fisheries. Since 1920, vessel financing has been
enhanced through the availability of preferred mortgages on
WHAT VESSELS MAY BE DOCUMENTED?
A vessel must measure at least five net tons and, with the
exception of certain oil spill response vessels, must be wholly
owned by a citizen of the US.
MUST MY VESSEL BE DOCUMENTED?
Vessels of five net tons or more used in fishing activities on
navigable waters of the US or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),
or used in coastwise trade must be documented unless the vessel
is exempt from documentation.
Coastwise trade is generally
defined as the transportation of merchandise or passengers
between points in the US or the EEZ.
In addition, towboats
operating between points in the US or the EEZ or between the EEZ
and points in the US and dredges operating in the US or the EEZ
must be documented.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY VESSEL MEASURES FIVE NET TONS?
Tonnage is determined by volume. Most vessels more than 25 feet
in length will measure five net tons or more.
WHAT VESSELS ARE EXEMPT?
Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the US Or
in the fisheries in the EEZ, are exempt from the requirement to
be documented. Also exempt are Coastwise qualified,
non-self-propelled vessels used in coastwise trade within a
harbor, on the rivers or lakes (except the Great Lakes) of the
US Or the internal waters or canal of any state.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION?
Yes. A Certificate of Documentation may be endorsed for fishery,
coastwise, registry, or recreation. Any documented vessel may be
used for recreational purposes, regardless of its endorsement,
but a vessel documented with a recreational endorsement only may
not be used for any other purpose. Registry endorsements are
generally used for foreign trade.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR DOCUMENTATION?
The basic requirements for documentation are to demonstrate
ownership of the vessel, US citizenship, and eligibility for the
HOW IS VESSEL OWNERSHIP ESTABLISHED?
If the vessel is new and has never been documented, ownership
may be established by submission of a Builder's Certification
Naming the applicant for documentation as the
person for whom the vessel was built or to whom the vessel was
Also acceptable are a transfer on a
Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin, a copy of the State
Registration or Title, or foreign registration showing that the
applicant owns the vessel.
In the case of a previously owned vessel, the applicant must
present bills of sale, or other evidence showing transfer of the
vessel from the person who last documented, titled, or
registered the vessel, or to whom the vessel was transferred on
a Builder's Certification or Manufacturer's Certificate of
Origin. If title was transferred by some means other than a bill
of sale, contact the NVDC for assistance.
HOW DO I ESTABLISH US CITIZENSHIP?
Citizenship is established by completion of form CG-1258. In
addition to individuals, corporations, partnerships, and other
entities capable of holding legal title may be deemed citizens
for documentation purposes.
Corporations must be registered in a
state or the US; the chief executive officer and chairman of the
board of directors must be US citizens, and no more than a
minority of the number of directors necessary to constitute a
quorum may be non-citizens.
In addition, at least 75% of the
stock must be vested in US Citizens for a coastwise endorsement,
and more than 50% of the voting stock must be vested in US
Citizens for a fisheries endorsement.
WHY AND HOW IS BUILD EVIDENCE ESTABLISHED?
Evidence that a vessel was built in the US is required for a
vessel which is to be used in the fisheries or coastwise trade.
Build evidence is normally established by submitting a Builder's
Certification on form CG-1261. That form must be completed by
the person who constructed or oversaw the construction of the
vessel or an official of the company that built the vessel who
has examined the records of the company to determine the facts
WHAT ARE THE VESSEL NAME AND HAILING PORT MARKING REQUIREMENTS
Documented vessels do not display their official numbers on the
outside of the hull, but are identified by the name and hailing
port. The application for documentation must include a name for
the vessel composed of letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic
or Roman numerals and may not exceed 33 characters.
The name may
not be identical, actually or phonetically, to any word or words
used to solicit assistance at sea; may not contain or be
phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane
language, or to racial or ethnic epithets. Once established, a
vessel's name may not be changed without application, fees, and
the consent of the Director, National Vessel Documentation
There is no rule against duplication of names for
documented vessels, so hailing ports are helpful in identifying
HOW DO I MARK MY VESSEL?
The official number assigned to documented vessels, preceded of
the abbreviation "NO." must be marked in block-type Arabic
numerals at least three inches high on some clearly visible
interior structural part of the hull.
The number must be
permanently affixed so that alteration, removal, or replacement
would be obvious and cause some scarring or damage to the
surrounding hull area.
The name and hailing port of a recreational vessel must be
marked together on some clearly visible exterior part of the
The vessel name of a commercial vessel must also be marked
on the port and starboard bow and the vessel name and the
hailing port must also be marked on the stern. All markings may
be made by any means and materials that result in durable
markings and must be at least four inches in height, made in
clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman
The "hailing port" must include both a place in the
United States. The state may be abbreviated.
HOW DO I CHANGE THE NAME OR HAILING PORT OF MY VESSEL?
The name and/or hailing port may be changed by filing an
application for change on form CG-1258 with the appropriate
fees. If your vessel is subject to a mortgage of record, you
must obtain permission from the mortgagee on form CG-4593.
WHY DOES THE COAST GUARD REQUIRE DESIGNATION OF A MANAGING
Many vessels have more than one owner. To make sure that the
right person gets mail concerning the vessel, one must be
designated as the managing owner.
WHAT IS A PREFERRED MORTGAGE?
A preferred mortgage is a mortgage which is given status as a
maritime lien. As such it enjoys a certain priority in the event
In addition, the Coast Guard is prohibited from
making certain changes in documentation including, but not
limited to, change of vessel ownership, name, and hailing port
without consent of the mortgagee.
For this reason many financial
institutions require vessels which are eligible for
documentation to be documented and to have preferred mortgages
recorded against them.
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