What Vessel Owners Need to Know About Coast Guard Documentation

Coast Guard Documentation

Are you unsure about whether or not to document your vessel with the Coast Guard? Does it seem like every online is telling you to do one thing or another? We designed our documentation portal to be a hub of information, a place where vessel owners from all walks of life could find documentation, sure, but also answers to their questions. You may have to document your vessel, but many vessel owners do not require Coast Guard documentation

In fact, there are vessels that don’t necessarily require Coast Guard registration but could reap benefits from it.

What Vessels Eligible for Registration?

If your vessel boasts a volume of at least five net tons and is solely owned by a U.S. citizen, it’s eligible for registration. Pay attention to the term “volume” here – net tonnage isn’t about weight; it’s about the vessel’s volume

So, a vessel weighing five net tons might not necessarily qualify. If you don’t want to do the math or get your vessel measured, there is an eye test you can perform: length. If your vessel stretches beyond roughly 25 feet, chances are very good that it meets the five net tons volume requirement.

What Vessels Must Get Coast Guard Boat Registration?

Some vessels must be registered if they meet the criteria mentioned earlier and are utilized in specific activities. These activities include ferrying people and/or cargo across U.S. navigable waters or within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), aka “coastwise trade.” 

Furthermore, if your vessel is employed for fishing endeavors in these waters, registration is compulsory. The “EEZ” extends, more or less, 200 nautical miles offshore and is adjacent to the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of America. 

Why Would I Get Coast Guard Documentation if It Is Not Necessary?

You might be thinking, “Well, my vessel meets the five net tons requirement, but I don’t plan on engaging in any of those activities. Do I really need to register it?” Technically, no, you don’t need to. But, you might want to. One significant reason recreational vessel owners opt for registration: the allure of a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. This can streamline the vessel financing process, but it’s only accessible if your vessel is registered.

What’s a Vessel Endorsement?

If you’ve looked at the initial documentation form, then you’ve noticed that you have to put down a vessel “endorsement.” In basic terms, an endorsement serves as a declaration of intent for your vessel. By choosing one, you’re essentially stating, “This is how I intend to utilize my documented vessel.” 

Each endorsement comes with its own set of rules and regulations, acting as a means of communication to inform relevant authorities about your vessel’s intended use.

Coast Guard Documentation

What are the Coastwise and Fishery Endorsements?

Among the most prevalent endorsements are Coastwise and Fishery. To simplify, if your boat will be transporting passengers within US waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone, Coastwise endorsement is the appropriate choice. Conversely, if commercial fishing is the intended use, opting for the Fishery endorsement is ideal.

Registry Endorsement Explained

Although it may seem redundant given vessel registration, the Registry endorsement is specifically for vessels engaged in foreign trade. This is pertinent for boats conducting trade beyond designated American waters.

What is a Recreational Endorsement?

Most likely the most common endorsement, the recreational endorsement is for vessels that are utilized purely for leisure purposes, such as entertaining family and friends on the water. 

Owners opting for recreational endorsement have no intention of commercial use or deriving income from their vessel. While any vessel can be used for recreation, those solely endorsed for recreational use cannot be employed for any other purpose.

When Do I Have to Renew My Documentation?

It’s important to note that documentation must undergo renewal annually. On our platform, vessel owners holding a “Recreational” endorsement can even opt to renew their documentation for a duration of up to five years in advance.

We recommend initiating the renewal process fewer than 60 days before the expiration date. Renewing beyond this timeframe will result in the issuance of a renewal with updated expiration and issuance dates, consequently shortening the validity period of the documentation.

Vessel owners have a window of up to 30 days after the expiration date to complete the renewal process. Beyond this timeframe, vessel owners cannot simply “renew” their documentation but have the option to reinstate it. 

A Home for Vessel Documentation

While registration is crucial on our platform, it’s not the only reason to connect with us. We provide a variety of Coast Guard Documentation services. Need to renew your documentation? We make it easy. Seeking to secure a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage? We’ll assist you through the paperwork smoothly. Visit our website for details.