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

How Do I Establish U.S. Citizenship in the Context of Vessel Documentation?

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.

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.

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.

To be eligible for documentation, a vessel must measure at least five net tons in volume, be owned by an American citizen, and be eligible for the endorsement sought.

That is only for a vessel to be eligible for documentation. Not all vessels that meet the above criteria must be documented.

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.

What Vessels Are Exempt from Vessel Documentation?

Vessels that measure less than five net tons or are not owned by American citizens are exempt from documentation.

Additionally, even if they do measure five net tons or more and are owned by American citizens, 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.

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

You do have the option of measuring your vessel's net tonnage. However, most vessel owners simply measure the vessel's length. If a vessel is at least 25 feet long, then it almost invariably measures five net tons.

If your vessel measures at least five net tons and is owned by an American citizen, you can document it. Vessel owners can apply here for American vessel documentation.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Must I submit my application by mail?

No, your initial vessel documentation application (or any other) 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.

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.

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.

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.

For example, the USCG will send notifications reminding the managing owner that the vessel's documentation is soon to expire.

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.