The Requirements and Categories for a Documented Vessel

documented vessel

Maintaining a registered documented vessel will require a lot of attention to each process, but they all have to start somewhere. If you have never documented a vessel, it’s important to know about exactly who gets to document a vessel in the United States. Not only that, but there are different categories under which it’s important to register each different vessel. If you’re not familiar with what all these entail, here are a few pointers on the basics of vessel documentation.

Documented Vessel Process

The requirements in place in order to obtain vessel documentation with the United States Coast Guard. The applicant 

  • Demonstration of United States citizenship on the part of the owner.
    • In addition to individuals, it’s worth stating that corporations, partnerships, and other entities capable of holding legal title may be deemed citizens for documentation purposes. 
  • Demonstration of ownership of the vessel, potentially a bill of sale, a builder’s certification, or a first transfer of title.
  • Eligibility for any sort of endorsement sought (such as the requirements for vessel registration that are stated below.

What Commercial Vessels Need to Be Documented?

Commercial vessels must always be registered in order to properly operate on United States waters. Must a commercial vessel be used for profit? Not always. Sometimes operational purposes such as research, education, and recovery are classified under the non-recreational umbrella. The key is to not think of the vessel as specifically commercial or not, but rather as one meant for its own specific purpose. These are some specific categories 

  • Commercial fishing boat
  • Fish processing vessel
  • Freight ship
  • Industrial vessel
  • Mobile offshore drilling unit
  • Oil recovery
  • Offshore supply vessel
  • Passenger
  • Passenger barge
  • Public freight
  • Public tankship/barge
  • Public vessel
  • Research vessel
  • School ship
  • Tank barge
  • Tank ship
  • Towing vessel

What Recreational Vessels Need to Be Documented?

Now, when it comes to recreational vessels, not every vessel will have to be registered, but some will and it’s better if they are in order to establish proper ownership and have your papers in order. These are the requirements for recreational vessels.

  • Vessels that are wholly owned by a citizen of the United States.
  • Vessels that measure at least five net tons (exceptions to this only apply for certain oil spill response vessels). A helpful hint: any vessel that measures more than 25 feet is likely to measure five net tons.
  • The vessel needs to be given a name and a hailing port, both of which should be displayed in four-inch block letters on the hull of the vessel.
  • Federally documented vessels are not required to display state registration numbers, but you may still be required to register the vessel with the state.

Documented Vessel

Whether you need your initial US Coast Guard registration, or you are renewing or reinstating a documented vessel, you can find all the necessary forms on our homepage. Should you need help documenting a vessel or filling out any forms you might need, you can reach out to us. Give us a call at 1-866-981-8783 or email us at with your questions.