Not all leisure craft in the US need to be registered with the Coast Guard but if required, the certificate can last from one to five years.
For commercial craft, US Coast Guard Documentation Numbers are valid for only one year from their date of issue. The National Vessel Documentation Center requires an annual renewal of all vessels on the U.S. Coast Guard registry. The only exception is when there has been a change of address. If there has been a change in address by the vessel owner, then that has to be officially recorded before renewal is granted.
Although the U.S. Coast Guard does send out reminders of renewal in the form of notification – a Notice of Renewal – it is really the obligation of the vessel owner or its official manager to see that the annual renewals are kept up to date.
Notices of Renewal are sent approximately forty-five days prior to the expiration date of your certificate of documentation. There isn’t any fee charged for an annual renewal if the paperwork is sent prior to the expiration date. If however, the delay extends beyond 30 days past the expiration date, it will be necessary to go through the reinstatement process rather than the renewal process.
To make certain your annual renewal arrives in time, you can renew your USCG certificate of documentation in advance. Just download the correct form from a USCG documentation site. The actual form can be either faxed or mailed. Just make sure that all the information is correct.
There isn’t any need to return your present certificate with your renewal form. The only change permitted on the renewal form is a change of address. Any other changes to your vessel’s status, like ownership for example, will require the appropriate forms to be completed at the relevant time.
This Process is Mandatory
Whether or not you are an experienced mariner or just a weekend seaman, you will have to attend to the administrative paperwork that the U.S. Coast Guard requires. Only with vessels under the capacity of five tons is this optional. In all other cases, it is a mandatory obligation under US maritime law.
As the owner of a vessel, the onus to update the documentation within the law is on you. Failure to provide the correct documentation or to comply with maritime rules and regulations may well leave you liable to prosecution.
It Isn’t Complicated
When faced with the complicated paperwork and requirements under maritime law, many would-be sailors may think twice before acquiring a boat or ship. That doesn’t have to be the case. There are dedicated websites to guide you through the process of keeping your vessel within the legal limits required by law.
The US Vessel Documentation Center is a third-party private agency that handles USCG Documentation processing to NVDC. It is a service dedicated to providing easy access online to all the various forms and documentation relating to vessel ownership in the USA. Whether you need your initial US Coast Guard Documentation Number or renewal, make us the first port of call.