Acquiring, financing, and maintaining your vessel can require a lot of work – sometimes more than most people realize. There is more to becoming a vessel owner than making a few payments, and there is much more to being a vessel owner than the occasional maintenance work. Vessels require all sorts of special documentation depending on a variety of factors such as how the vessel was acquired and what it’s being used for.
Vessel documentation can be a frustrating thing for vessel owners to deal with, regardless of how long they have had their boats. Knowing which documents you will need when you will need them, and when you will need to complete them is a lot for just one person to keep track of. Fortunately, there are reliable vessel documentation services available online which can help out vessel owners just like you.
What is a Documented Vessel?
A documented vessel is one that has been registered with the federal government through the United States Coast Guard (USCG). This is different from a vessel that is registered at the state level, which has been titled and numbered. Some vessels are required to be documented, rather than only registered at the state level. For example, pleasure vessels that weigh 5 net tons (usually those which are 26 feet in length and higher) have the option of being documented, commercial vessels that weigh 5 net tons or more must be documented.
Why Should I Have My Vessel Documented?
There are many benefits that come from getting your vessel documented through the United States Coast Guard. This is true even of vessels that aren’t required to be documented. One such benefit is the ability to travel in foreign or international waters. A Certificate of Documentation proves to foreign governments that you are a U.S. citizen, as documentation is only available to U.S. citizens. It provides you and your vessel with a degree of protection that a state title doesn’t. In this respect, it acts a lot like a passport for your vessel, which also verifies that you are the owner and are legally allowed to operate it.
Another reason is that it has financial benefits. If you are financing your vessel, the majority of lenders will expect you to have your vessel documented. The USCG Documentation makes it so banks can secure a lien at the federal level. When it comes to boats that are smaller than 26 feet, the title and a notation of security interest are generally enough to give the lender adequate protection.
Lastly, there is a much stronger assurance of title when registered federally rather than at the state level. The United States Coast Guard is much more stringent with their requirements and processes for documentation than most states are. Having a vessel documented at the federal level also gives you access to an Abstract of Title, which contains a comprehensive history of the vessel’s documentation. The Abstract of Title is not available for an undocumented vessel.
There are other reasons that can motivate vessel owners to pursue documentation. For example, some simply like the prestige that comes with having a federally registered boat. Others like not having to display state registration numbers on the vessel, usually because that can hinder its aesthetic appeal. If you ever decide to sell the vessel, having it documented at the federal level also makes for a smoother transition from one owner to the next.
What Do I Need to Have My Vessel Documented?
Documentation is only available to U.S. citizens. This means that any owner of the vessel must also be a U.S. citizen, as some vessels have more than one. Some vessels are owner by corporations, and they can be legally considered ‘citizens’ if they’re incorporated in the U.S., the president or other CEO is a U.S. citizen, and the number of non-citizens on the board of directors can’t be larger than the minority required for a quorum. Depending on how the vessel is going to be used, there are additional requirements regarding the corporation’s stock ownership.
Aside from the application for documentation, you will need to prove that you are the owner of the vessel, which is typically done through providing pre-existing state title or registration, bill of sale, or builder’s certificate. When documenting a vessel for the first time you must also complete an application for simplified measurement.
Where Can I Find Vessel Documentation Services?
We know that vessel documentation is a hassle, but we also know that it doesn’t have to be. At the US Vessel Documentation Center we are committed to making life as a vessel owner as easy as possible, so you can enjoy life out on the open water. That’s why we offer the best online vessel documentation services right here on our website. We have everything a vessel owner or prospective vessel owner could need. Our blog is full of useful information to help you better understand the vessel documentation process and the different types of documentation there are. We also provide easy access to these documents, which you can complete and submit through our secure site.
Our team is always available to provide help if you’re ever stuck at any point in the process. We can help answer questions about specific documents as you fill them out. We’re also here to help you find the applications for the documents which best fit your situation or suit your needs.