US Coast Guard Registration for Commercial and Recreational Vessels

US Coast Guard registration

Your vessel registration is one of the most important documents relating to your use of your boat, if not the most. Why? Because it represents not only your ownership over the boat and permission to use it, but it also represents your standing with the US Coast Guard registration. Like all other bureaucratic processes and applications, this might seem inconvenient and annoying, but we can make it easier for you. First, allow us to explain what the registration itself will entail.

US Coast Guard Registration

In order to be registered, the vessel has to be wholly owned by a citizen of the United States. Additionally, the vessel must 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. There are two umbrella categories when it comes to vessel registration: recreational and commercial ones. These might seem pretty self-explanatory, but let’s take a closer look at what they each comprise.

Recreational Vessels

The definition of a recreational vessel is fairly straightforward, right? This is basically a vessel that is used for leisure purposes, such as a yacht or a family boat. A lot of people think that just because a vessel is recreational, there is no need to get its US Coast Guard registration. This is not true. If the vessel fulfills the criteria described above, then it needs to be registered with the Coast Guard. It’s important to know that while a registered commercial vessel may be used recreationally, a recreational vessel cannot be used commercially, so keep that in mind once you have registered your leisure boat.

Commercial Vessels

While there is only one kind of recreational vessel, there are plenty of categories for commercial ones. Even certain categories, such as passenger vessels or barges, will have separate categories depending on the number of passengers they are meant to carry. 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. Don’t think about your vessel in terms of commercial or not when registering it, rather, consider its specific purpose. The following are the categories you will have to choose from when registering your vessel:

  • 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

Easily Get Your US Coast Guard Documentation

Are you having trouble filling out your US coast Guard documentation? Do you already have your registration in place and need to make changes to it? We can help you at every step of the way. Our team here at Vessel Documentation Online can guide you through any Coast Guard documentation process. All applications are available on our menu above and, if you are having trouble, give us a call at 1-866-981-8783 or email us at We’ll be in touch with you in no time.