California Ship Documentation

Through our vessel documentation portal, all of our forms can be accessed from essentially anywhere. As our portal has been optimized for mobile devices, these forms can be completed on laptops, tablets, phones, and other internet-connected devices. These are forms that may be necessary to register a vessel, maintain that registration, and more throughout the state of California. 

However, while our portal offers access to vessel documents for the state of California, these forms will be valid throughout the rest of the country, too. As this is federal registration, you don’t have to be in California (or have a vessel in California) to utilize these forms. 

To qualify for vessel registration, your vessel must be owned entirely by a US citizen and measure at least five net tons. For some vessels, registration is a choice. For others, it’s a necessity. 

The vessels that must be documented are those that are to be used in coastwise trade or fishery activities. The former, “coastwise trade” is defined, in this context, as more or less “transporting passengers and/or merchandise on the navigable waters of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) or navigable waters of the United States.”) In some cases, there are exceptions. Those who have further questions are encouraged to email 

Initial Vessel Documentation 

Should your vessel have never been registered in California or any other American state, file your initial vessel documentation with this form. Do not attempt to use this form for registration renewal, reinstatement, or any purpose other than initial registration. 

Certified Copy (COD) 

Complete this form to receive a certified copy of your Certificate of Documentation. Our rush processing option can expedite the process. 


Renew vessel documentation with this form. Documentation renewal can be secured for up to five years in advance. Should your vessel documentation have expired 30 or more days ago, your vessel documentation has to be reinstated and is ineligible for renewal. 


Replace a USCG Certificate of Documentation by completing this form. Vessel registration will not be valid if your Certificate of Documentation has been lost, mutilated, and so forth. 


Should your vessel registration have expired 30 or more days ago, reinstate boat documentation by completing this form. You cannot renew vessel documentation with this form. 

Deletion (COD) 

Should your vessel no longer be serviceable, lost, or sold to a foreign citizen, delete your vessel’s Certificate of Documentation and remove it from the Coast Guard registry with this form. 

Transfer/Exchange of Ownership 

Should you wish to make an alteration in the ownership of a vessel, complete this vessel documentation form. With this, you can change the managing owner, add/remove a spouse, sell the vessel, or transfer it to a new individual, trust, company, and so forth. 

Abstract of Title 

To obtain information about a vessel’s build, its chain of ownership, any mortgages/liens against the vessel as well as their status and more information, complete this form for an Abstract of Title. 

Preferred Ship Mortgage 

If your vessel has a Certificate of Registration or an application on COD at the NVDC, complete this form to apply for a Preferred Ship Mortgage. In the event of default, this mortgage enjoys a certain priority as it is given status as a maritime lien. 

Satisfaction/Release of Mortgage/Lien 

Should you have paid off a mortgage and/or lien against your ship, you can fill out this ship documentation form. 

Change of Address 

Should your address have changed from what is currently on your Certificate of Registration, update the authorities with this form. 

Change of Vessel Name and/or Hailing Port 

Should you desire to change your vessel’s name or its hailing port, complete this vessel documentation form. Names can only be composed of Latin alphabet letters as well as Arabic or Roman numerals. Additionally, they cannot exceed 33 characters. Names that are identical to those used to solicit assistance when on the water, actually or phonetically, as well as obscene words, are forbidden. 

Change of Trade Indicator/Endorsement 

Should you wish to change your vessel’s endorsement/trade indicator from what is currently on your Certificate of Registration, complete this form. “Fishery,” “Coastwise,” “Registry,” and “Recreation” are the most common endorsements on vessel documentation. 

Foreign Vessel Title Search Request/Transcript of Registry 

Should you wish to learn more information about vessels in the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom, Canada, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, or the Bahamas, complete this boat documentation form. 

Notice of Claim of Lien (NCL) 

Should you desire to record a claim of lien against a documented vessel, complete this form. Completion of this form does not make any claim as to the notice’s enforceability or validity. For guidance, it is recommended that you contact private legal counsel. 

MARAD Small Vessel Waiver 

Should you have a foreign-built vessel that you want to use to conduct limited commercial passenger operations in the United States, complete this form. This form is used to obtain a waiver for the American-built requirement for commercial passenger vessels in the United States. 

Eligible vessels must be at least three years old, wholly owned by an American citizen, used only for transporting passengers, and cannot carry more than twelve passengers when in operation. 

Vessel Documentation Search 

Obtain information about documented vessels through the USCG database here. 

Document Upload 

Should you need to upload documentation such as bills of sale, a last will, and testament, a previous Certificate of Documentation, and others, do it here. 

California Ship Documentation for All of America 

The above forms are valid anywhere in the United States. You don’t have to be in California to complete them. Many of the forms offer an option for rush processing, should you wish to put your requests at the top of our queue. Safe travels on the water.