Abstract of Title Explained in Detail

Any maritime vessel that gets documentation from the US Coast Guard has generated what is called an “Abstract of Title”, which is also called a general index. We’ll go more into depth in this article about what’s on this document, but it generally includes information about the vessel, ownership and financial history, and its current status with regards to USCG documentation.

What’s on the Abstract of Title?

In other words, the abstract of title is a complete summary of the vessel’s history with particular attention to ownership and financial details. For many, access to this clear record is one of the biggest benefits of documenting your boat. Here’s what you can typically find on it.

abstract of title

Official Info about the Vessel

The Coast Guard gives every documented vessel a unique number that will stay with it no matter who owns it and if on the abstract of title. The current name and any previous names are also included, as well as vessel hull identification numbers (aka HINs) on newer abstracts. 

Some data is optional, depending on if the filer wants to provide it, and can include when and where the boat was built and more. If there is anything of note with regard to the boat’s documentation status, the USCG will also include it in the abstract.

Vessel Ownership History

Current ownership, as well as changes of ownership, are included in the abstract of title. This information is more detailed than what’s on a certificate of documentation. Owners can be sole or multiple individuals, or legal and business entities like corporations and other companies. It will also give information on ownership with regards to multiple parties and their tenancy of the boat. 

The abstract is also one of few places that can maintain a complete record of the boat’s ownership. If it stays in the documentation since it was built, every transfer should be included. The abstract may also display changes in ownership that may not be reflected on the currently issued certificate of documentation.

Financial History (Mortgages, Liens, Etc.)

In addition to ownership, the vessel’s abstract of title will show any relevant mortgage and lien information. This includes outstanding liens and mortgages, financial encumbrances, and supplemental recordings like amendments to mortgages, financial subordination, and the like. 

Any information about these debts resolving should also be included. Discharges, terminations, releases, and debts being satisfied will be in the abstract of title. These entries are dated and include thorough information about the transaction and will reference related entries.

How are Abstracts of Title Kept?

Depending on the vessel, particularly when it was first documented, the abstract of title could be hard copies, digital notations that reference these documents, or fully digitized scans of relevant documents. They are typically in chronological order (and not by matter, for example).

Need Help Ordering or Interpreting an Abstract of Title?

You can request your abstract of title through our site or directly through the US Coast Guard. It may be sent directly to you or may need to be retrieved from the USCG’s archive. 

There are many standard forms contained with abstracts of title, though they may look different throughout the decades. They can contain a lot of shorthand, references, and abbreviations that may not be clear at first glance, so you may need assistance interpreting them.

There may also be inconsistencies or missing pieces in the abstract of title. These can be fixed by reaching out to a Coast Guard documentation officer. You may need to get these resolved for financial reasons or to clarify ownership.

There are many reasons why you might need to obtain or better understand your abstract of title. Here at Maritime Documentation Center, we are experts at every step of this process and we’re here to help. If you need assistance with your vessel’s abstract of title, or even getting your initial USCG documentation, please contact us.