Boat Licensing vs. Boat Registration Explained

“I already have my boating license, do I really need to get boat registration, too?” We hear some version of that question often. A variation we hear: “I got my vessel registered. So, that counts as a boat license, right?” The truth is that they’re very different things. We can help with one of them. At the Maritime Documentation Center, we have all of the registration and documentation forms that you might need for your boat. We can walk you through that process, while also explaining how it differs from licensing. 

boat registration

Boat Licensing: Proof You Can Operate a Boat 

In the end, that’s really what boat licensing is: it shows that you can successfully and safely operate a boat. In most places, it means that you’ve taken a course, learned what they wanted you to learn, then completed some kind of test. After a while, you’re given a license that says you can operate a boat. That’s licensing. It’s not what we do at our site. Registration is very different.

Boat Registration: Proof of Nationality, Unhindered Commerce, and More 

When you get your bot registered, it shows that the vessel is conclusively American, has unhindered commerce between the states and you’ll be able to get into certain restricted trades. On top of that, it also makes it infinitely easier to get a preferred mortgage for the vessel as well. As you can see, that’s very different from what licensing does. To use an analogy, think of your car: your driver’s license doesn’t allow you to take your car to certain restricted areas or anything like that. It does say that you’re able to drive a car. The same logic applies here. 

The Vessels that Can be Registered

If you’re reading this and thinking: “wait, am I allowed to be on the water? I never got my vessel registered.” You might be in luck: not all vessels have to be registered. In fact, some vessels flat out don’t have to be. The vessels that have to be documented are the ones that are five net tons or more that are used for fishing activities on the navigable waters of the US or what’s called the “Exclusive Economic Zone.” If that sounds like your vessel and you don’t have documentation, we can help you out at our site. 

A Place to Get all of Your Documentation 

We understand that, if this is your first time in dealing with it or your hundredth, then vessel documentation can be a bit confusing. It can be tough to figure out which vessel needs what, when, and the reasoning behind it. That’s why we’ve done so much to make it easier for our customers to not just get their documentation, but to know why. If you go to our site, you can find all of the forms that you’ll need in a matter of minutes. From there, if you have any further questions, you can always call the Maritime Documentation Center at (800) 535-8570