Vessel Documentation Query: What are Endorsements?

vessel documentation query

Are you completing your vessel documentation and aren’t sure which endorsement to choose? Or, have you picked an endorsement and are considering picking a new one? Here at the National Documentation Portal, we’re always open to answer any vessel documentation query someone may ask us. Often, we’re asked about “endorsements,” as these show up in multiple documentation forms. Choosing the right endorsement for your vessel can go a long way towards making sure that you can legally use your vessel how you would like. 

Endorsements Explained 

Essentially, an endorsement is a kind of statement of purpose. You’re saying “This is how I’m going to use my documented vessel.” There are certain rules attached to endorsements. It’s service information, a way of informing the powers that be how you plan on utilizing your vessel. 

Coastwise and Fishery 

Two of the most common endorsements are “Coastwise” and “Fishery.” Essentially, if you plan on using your vessel for transporting people and/or merchandise on the navigable waters of the United States or in the Exclusive Economic Zone, then you’re going to want the Coastwise endorsement. (As the vessel is used for “coastwise trade,” you’ll want the “Coastwise endorsement,” is the thinking here.) The “Fishery” endorsement, then, is for vessel owners who plan to use their documented vessel for commercial fishing operations on those same waters. 


The “Registry” endorsement, then, may seem superfluous, as your documented vessel is already considered “registered.” However, this particular endorsement is for vessels that are going to be used for foreign trade, those documented boats that are going to be used for trade outside of American waters. 


This is, by a fairly substantial margin, the most common endorsement. With this, you’re just using your vessel to have fun with friends and family. You’re using it to have a good time and not for any commercial purpose, not to make money, and so forth. Now, remember: any vessel can be used for recreation, but a vessel with a “Recreational” endorsement can’t be used for any other purpose. 

Why Get Documentation If You Don’t Have To? 

This is another common query, and the truth is that, for many, the reason they document vessels that aren’t going to be used for any commercial purpose is so that they can get better financing. Indeed, vessels have to be documented to be eligible for a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. If you document your vessel, it could be easier to pay for the vessel of your dreams. Of course, you can find the forms to apply for a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage through our site, too. 

vessel documentation query

Answering Your Vessel Documentation Query and More 

Have you had your endorsement for a while and are considering changing it? You can do that through our site, too. All you have to do is to fill out the “Change of Endorsement/Trade Indicator” form and pick your new endorsement. That’s just one of the many vessel documentation forms we offer here. See all of them right here.