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 documented vessels. For more information, on how to do a Vessel Documentation Search Visit:
Vessels of five net tons or more used in fishing activities on navigable waters of the U.S. or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or used in coastwise trade must be documented unless the vessel is exempt from the documentation. The easiest way to get the documentation process started is by performing a vessel documentation search. Coastwise trade is generally defined as the transportation of merchandise or passengers between points in the U.S. or the EEZ. In addition, towboats operating between points in the U.S. or the EEZ or between the EEZ and points in the U.S. and dredges operating in the U.S. or the EEZ must be documented.
Net tonnage is a measure of a vessel’s volume. It should not be confused with the vessel’s weight, which may also be expressed in tons. Most vessels more than 25 feet in length will measure five net tons or more. For information about how tonnage is determined, including a web-based interactive form that calculates tonnages, send us an email, and we`ll be happy to help
Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the U.S. 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 U.S., or the internal waters or canal of any state.
Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the U.S. 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 U.S., or the internal waters or canal of any state. Yes. A Certificate of Documentation may be endorsed for the 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.
The basic requirements for documentation are to demonstrate ownership of the vessel, U.S. citizenship, and eligibility for the endorsement sought.
If the vessel is new and has never been documented, ownership may be established by submission of a Builder’s Certification (Form CG-1261), naming the applicant for documentation as the person for whom the vessel was built or to whom the vessel was first transferred. 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 the 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 the title was transferred by some means other than a bill of sale, contact the NVDC for assistance.
Citizenship is established by completion of form CG-1258. In addition to individuals, corporations, partnerships, and other entities capable of holding the legal title may be deemed citizens for documentation purposes. Corporations must be registered in a state or the U.S; the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors must be U.S. 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 U.S. citizens for a coastwise or fisheries endorsement.
Evidence that a vessel was built in the U.S. is required for a vessel that 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 of the build. The Original Builder’s Certification or Facts of Build Letter must be presented with your submission. A copy will NOT be accepted.
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 Center. There is no rule against duplication of names for documented vessels, so hailing ports are helpful in identifying vessels.
Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the U.S. 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 U.S., or the internal waters or canal of any state.Yes. A Certificate of Documentation may be endorsed for the 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.
The official number assigned to documented vessels, preceded by 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 hull. 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 numerals. The “hailing port” must include both a place and a State, Territory, or possession of in the United States. The state may be abbreviated.
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.
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.
A preferred mortgage is a mortgage that is given status as a maritime lien. As such it enjoys a certain priority in the event of default. 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 that are eligible for documentation to be documented and to have preferred mortgages recorded against them.
Simply fill out our online forms here on this secure website, and the forms will automatically be forwarded to our Documentation Processor for the review! A good portion of our clients has made attempts at the documents themselves, only to be rejected by the USCG 6 months later. Call us today to get more information.
In most instances, you may submit your application by fax or as a .pdf attachment to the e-mail, provided you pay your fees with a major credit card. This includes applications accompanied by bills of sale, mortgages, and satisfactions of mortgages. Among the exceptions are cases where an original is required, such as a builder’s certification, a certified copy of a court order, certificate of merger, or similar instrument is required.
You may obtain an Abstract of Title which will show all bills of sale, mortgages, and notices of claim of lien filed and recorded by the Coast Guard. You may request the Abstract by fax if you pay by credit card or may mail your request with the appropriate fee to the NVDC. To get accurate information you must supply the name and the official number of the vessel.
No, all documented vessels must comply with the laws of the state in which they are operated. The vessel’s document must be shown to state law enforcement personnel upon their demand. States may require documented vessels to be registered (but not numbered) and to display state decals showing that they have complied with state requirements.
Documentation of your vessel does not cover the vessel’s tender or dinghy. These crafts fall within the jurisdiction of the motorboat numbering laws of the state of principal use. Please contact your state agency that handles the registration or numbering of motorboats for further information.
When the sale is finalized you may complete a U.S. Coast Guard Bill of Sale (CG-1340) or complete the “Sale or Transfer of Vessel” section on the reverse of the Certificate of Documentation (CG-1270). Documentation forms, fee schedules, and instructions are available for downloading on this web site. If there is an outstanding mortgage, the mortgagee ( lender) should complete a Satisfaction of Mortgage. The vessel cannot be removed from documentation with an outstanding mortgage.
A Certificate of Documentation is valid for one year from the date of issue, providing there are NO CHANGES other than a change of owner’s address. The Certificate must be renewed on an annual basis. Even though it is up to the owner to assure the document does not expire, the Coast Guard will send a Notice of Renewal to the managing owner approximately 45 days prior to expiration. See the instruction letter Renewal of Certificate of Documentation elsewhere at this site regarding renewal procedures.
NO. An Application for Replacement (CG-1258) must be filed along with a $50.00 fee. If the lost document has already expired it must be exchanged. The fee would then be $84.00 plus applicable endorsement fees.
NO, simply sign, date, and return the Renewal Notice even if your address has changed. Please note the address change. You will receive a new certificate that shows your new address.
YES. The Renewal Form is available on this website. It may be downloaded from the Forms Menu. BE SURE TO CITE THE VESSEL’S OFFICIAL NUMBER.
You may submit your change of address by filling out our online Change of Address form conveniently available through this secure website or at the time of renewal of your Certificate of Documentation you can annotate the new address in the renewal application. You may submit your Change of Address application by navigating to the following page: Change of Address You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following link:
See Instructions Page on our website for details.
The “Merchant Vessels of the United States” (CG 408) lists the names of U.S. merchant and recreational vessels documented under the laws of the United States. It provides vessel dimensions, tonnage, builds (if available), and ownership information. The last printed version was in 1994. This information is now available in an electronic format (CD ROM) through National Technical Information Services (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161. You can order the latest edition of Vol. 99-001 at a cost of $145.00 plus shipping and handling.
To be eligible for a small vessel waiver program, your vessel must be owned by an American citizen or organization, only used to carry passengers, only used to carry a maximum of 12 passengers when in operation, and be at least three years old. To apply for a MARAD Waiver, use this link
Requests for faxing of Certificates of Documentation, Letters of Deletion, Certificates of Ownership, and recorded instruments such as Preferred Mortgages, Bills of Sale, Notices of Claim of Lien, and Satisfactions of Mortgage in combination to mailing will require an additional Certified Copy fee of $4.00 for each item.
Printed copies of all the regulations may be obtained via the internet from the U.S. government bookstore at: https://bookstore.gpo.gov/ or by calling (202) 512-1800 between 7:30 am and 4:30 pm EST or fax at (202) 512-2250. For any further questions regarding vessel documentation search, please call us at 800-340-7580.