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 documented vessels.

For more information, please call: 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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What vessels may be documented?

A vessel that measures at least five net tons and, with the exception of certain oil spill response vessels, that is wholly owned by a citizen of the U.S.

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Must my vessel be documented?

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 documentation. 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.

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How do I know if my vessel measures five net tons?

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 more information, please call: 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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What vessels are exempt?

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

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Are there different types of vessel 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.

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What are the requirements for vessel documentation?

The basic requirements for documentation are to demonstrate ownership of the vessel, U.S. citizenship, and eligibility for the endorsement sought.

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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 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 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 one of our documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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How do I establish U.S. citizenship?

Citizenship is established by verifying the applicant’s social security. 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 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.

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Why and how is build evidence established?

Evidence that a vessel was built in the U.S. 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. 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 build. The Original Builder’s Certification or Facts of Build Letter must be presented with your submission. A copy will NOT be accepted.

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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 Center. There is no rule against duplication of names for documented vessels, so hailing ports are helpful in identifying vessels.

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How do I mark my vessel?

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.

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How do I change the name or hailing port of my vessel?

You may change the name and/or hailing port by navigating to the following page and completing the online form: Change of Vessel Name/Haling Port

If you require assistance with your online application, you may contact a documentation processor to walk you through the process at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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Why does the coast guard require designation of a managing owner?

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.

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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 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 which are eligible for documentation to be documented and to have preferred mortgages recorded against them.

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Where can I get forms for vessel documentation?

All forms are conveniently available to complete online through this secure website. After completing a form, the form will automatically be forwarded to a Documentation Processor for review. On average, most people that attempt to submit their own documents yield deficiencies which cause their documentation process to be delayed by week or even months, and are subject to resubmitting their fees. The online portal provided on this websites helps speed up the documentation process and eliminate deficiencies. Call 1-800-343-0530 if you would like for a documentation processors to walk you through your application process. You may email info@nvdcrenewal.us for additional information or inquiries.

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Must I submit my application by mail?

No, your application may be submitted and paid for by filling out your desired application through the convenient online portal. The online portal is far more advantageous as it is not subject to delays caused by submitting your application(s) in by mail. Online applications submitted through this website are also promptly reviewed to ensure faster processing. You may also contact a documentation processor at 1(866) 981-8783 if you require assistance with your application.

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How do I obtain title information for a documented vessel?

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 an Abstract by navigating to the following page: Abstract of Title

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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Is a documented vessel exempt from state jurisdiction?

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.

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Is the vessel tender documented?

Documentation of your vessel does not cover the vessel’s tender or dinghy. These craft 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

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What happens when I sell my documented vessel?

When the sale is finalized, you may complete a Bill of Sale. The new owner will have to complete a Transfer application, which can be completed by navigating to the following link: Transfer/Exchange

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. You may complete a Satisfaction of Mortgage by navigation to the following link: Satisfaction/Release of Mortgage/Lien

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How long is the certificate of documentation valid?

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. You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following page: Renewal

Note that you now have the option to have your documentation renewed automatically for a period of up to 5 consecutive years. Selecting to pay for your Renewals in advance provides you with peace of mind and eliminates the stress of having to renew your documentation every year. If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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May I renew a lost certificate of documentation?

No, a lost certificate of documentation must be replaced by completing an application for Replacement, which can be completed by navigating to the following page: Replacement (COD)

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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Should I return the certificate of documentation with the renewal notice?

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.

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May I renew my document early?

Yes, you may submit a Renewal application early. You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following link: Renewal

Failure to submit your Renewal of documentation before the expiration date will require for you to Reinstate your documentation. You may submit your Reinstatement application by navigating to the following link: Reinstatement

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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How do I notify you of my change of address?

There are several methods to notify us of your change of address. You can notify us by telephone at 1-800-343-0530; email your address change to Contact Renewals; fax your change of address to 1-800-343-0530, or at the time of renewal of your Certificate of Documentation you can annotate the renewal notice before returning it. When calling, emailing, or faxing please provide the vessel’s official number.

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How do I request priority handling?

You may request priority handling by selecting the “Priority Request/Rush Processing” option under the “PLEASE SELECT ANY ADDITIONAL SERVICES YOU WISH TO HAVE PROCESSED” section before checking out.

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How do I get a coastwise waiver for a small passenger vessel?

You may get a coastwise waiver by navigating to the following page: Marad Small Vessel Waiver

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-343-0530 or email: info@nvdcrenewal.us

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May I receive faxed copies of completed products prior to mailing?

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 $34.00 for each item.

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When do I have to renew my documentation?

To remain valid, you must renew your USCG Certificate of Documentation within 30 days of the expiration date.

Click for USCG documentation renewal.

You have the option to renew for up to five years in advance.

If it has been more than 30 days since your Documentation expired, you must Reinstate your documentation. You can use this link for reinstatement.

How can I check if my vessel is documented or not?

You can check if your vessel is documented or not by conducting a vessel documentation search.

Type in a vessel’s HIN (Hull Identification Number) or its Official Number.

That will take you to the USCG database.

Information in this search includes a vessel’s particulars, and its dimensions, in addition to if a has valid documentation and when that documentation expires.

Do I need to register my documented vessel in Ohio?

Yes, you do. Any recreational vessel has to be registered in Ohio. That includes USCG documented vessels used for recreational purposes.

According to the “Ohio Department of Natural Resources,” “registrations are required for every recreational boat in Ohio, including powerboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and inflatable boats.” Link to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 

To document your vessel, you can do so at our site here.

Is a state title the same as documentation?

It is not the same. “Documentation,” through the United States Coast Guard, is federal documentation. The national form of boat registration in the United States, it applies to all fifty states and not just one state individually.

Documented vessels cannot have titles. Instead, they have a Certificate of Documentation.

This Certificate admits vessels to particular restricted trades, which include the fisheries and coastwise trade (transporting people and/or merchandise). Documentation also provides for commerce between states which is unhindered and, for international purposes, provides conclusive evidence of nationality. 

Some states require documented vessels to also be registered with the state. Use the following link to apply for vessel documentation

What is a Documented Vessel?

A documented vessel is registered through the USCG with the federal government.

To qualify for documentation, a vessel has to be owned by an American citizen and measure at least five net tons. 

This measures volume and not weight. A vessel that measures 26 feet or longer almost invariably measures at least five net tons. 

Pleasure boats (vessels used only for recreation) can be documented. 

Vessels that are to be used in commercial activities (such as commercial fishing and/or coastwise trade) on the navigable waters of the United States/Exclusive Economic Zone must be documented.

A corporation can qualify as a United States citizen for the purposes of vessel documentation so long as the corporation is incorporated in the United States, and the number of “alien directors” is fewer than that required for a quorum. Additionally,  the president or other CEO are American citizens. To document your vessel through our site, click here.