USCG documentation

USCG Documentation Who Does and Does Not Qualify

Are you wondering if your vessel qualifies for USCG documentation? Does it seem like the rules about which vessels can be documented and which vessels have to be documented seem contradictory at best? Vessel owners have felt that way for many years. While documenting your vessel is important (particularly if you’re in certain fields) it can be confusing, too. Part of the reason we built our site was to educate boat owners. That way, you can always be in compliance, easily, no matter what. 

Boat Size and USCG Documentation 

Your vessel has to be documented if it’s “five net tons or more” and “used in fishing activities on navigable waters of the U.S. or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).” Additionally, you must document it if it is “used in coastwise trade… unless the vessel is exempt from documentation.” First things first: “coastwise trade” just means “transporting merchandise or passengers on navigable U.S. waters or the EEZ.” Also, the “EEZ” usually means “about 200 nautical miles off the coast of the United States.” So, if your boat is that size, and used for those activities, then you have to document it. Yes, there are exceptions, rare though they may be. If you believe that you might be an exception, you can reach out to us and we’ll be glad to help. 

Choosing to Document Your Vessel 

You can choose to document your vessel even if you aren’t using it in “coastwise trade” or “fishery.” So long as your vessel measures at least five net tons and is owned entirely by a United States citizen, your vessel can be documented. Keep in mind: “net tons” is a measure of your vessel’s volume, not a measurement of its weight. So, if your vessel is 25 feet or longer, then it almost assuredly measures at least five net tons. 

The Right Endorsement for Your Work 

Depending on what you’re going to use your vessel for, you can choose an endorsement that fits. For example, if you’re running some kind of ferry, then you would want a “Coastwise” endorsement. If you’re going to use your vessel for fishing and nothing but fishing, then you’ll want a “Fishery” endorsement. “Recreation” is an endorsement for when you want to use your vessel to have fun. Keep in mind: all vessels can be used for recreation, but vessels with a “Recreation” endorsement can be used for nothing else. Lastly, a “Registry” endorsement is for foreign trade. 

Documentation for Today and Tomorrow 

Even if you’ve read to this point of the blog, it’s entirely possible that you still have questions about how documentation works. That’s fine! Our staff is on hand to answer any questions that you might have. Also, if you go through our site, you’ll find that we’ve put as much information on every form as we can fit. We’ve found that the more vessel owners know about documentation, the better decisions they can make about their vessels. For more, head to our site or fill out our contact form.