USCG COD: Your Ticket to Use Your Vessel How You Want


Are you thinking about documenting your vessel? Do you feel like you’re “on the fence” as to whether or not you should do it (or have to do it?) That’s perfectly understandable. Even experienced maritime professionals may not be 100% sure about what vessels require documentation and which don’t. Here at the National Documentation Portal, we aren’t here to persuade you that every vessel should undergo US Coast Guard vessel registration. Instead, we focus on providing a streamlined and hassle-free process for those who want it. If you need or want a USCG COD (or “United States Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation,”) we simplify the process.

Who Requires a USCG COD? 

If you possess a vessel that weighs five or more net tons and intend to use it for commercial fishing or transporting people/merchandise in the United States navigable waters or within the “Exclusive Economic Zone,” then US Coast Guard vessel registration is not an option—it’s a legal obligation. We emphasize the term “legal obligation” because compliance with this regulation is not open for debate; it’s mandated by law.  Certain specialized vessels like towboats and dredges may also find themselves subject to mandatory registration requirements.

Who May Opt for Vessel Documentation?

Many vessel owners whose crafts do not meet the aforementioned criteria still opt for US Coast Guard vessel documentation. Why? Well, one of the primary benefits is the facilitation of obtaining a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage—a marine mortgage for your vessel. However, it’s important to note that even for this benefit, your vessel must be owned by an American citizen and measure at least five net tons, irrespective of its use in fishing or commercial activities. If you’re uncertain whether your vessel meets this volume threshold, ask yourself another question: Is my vessel longer than 25 feet? If the answer is yes, it almost certainly exceeds the five net ton mark. Remember, “net tons” isn’t about weight; it’s about the vessel’s volume.

What’s an “Endorsement?” 

One question we’re often asked by those who are documenting a vessel for the first time is about section J, “Endorsements for Which Application is Made.” Think of if it’s asking: “How do you plan on using your vessel?” Then, you can choose the right option, from “Coastwise” (transporting people and or merchandise) and “Registry” (which is for international trade). Remember: every vessel can be used recreationally, but vessels with a “Recreational” endorsement cannot be used for anything but recreation. That said, through our site, you can change your endorsement at the “Change of Endorsement/Trade Indicator” form.


The Right Portal for Documentation

If your vessel falls within the scope of US Coast Guard vessel registration or if you’ve simply decided it’s the right choice for you, you’re in luck. Our website can meet all of your documentation needs. Whether you’re seeking initial documentation, renewal, alterations to your existing documentation (such as changes to the hailing port or address), or even the deletion and transfer of documentation, we’ve got you covered.