Can You Use a Boat Without Being on the USCG Vessel Registry?

The short answer is, yes you can. However, the USCG vessel registry exists for a reason, and getting around it is a legal matter that requires specific paperwork. This is true of boats manufactured outside the United States, as well as those that you want to use to transport passengers. If your boat meets the standards, you can use the MARAD small vessel waiver to proceed. Keep reading to find out what you need to know about the waiver and how it works. 

What is the MARAD Small Vessel Waiver?

Under the Jones Act, any boat being used for commerce must be manufactured in the United States. However, the MARAD small vessel waiver was created so that foreign boats, as well as those with unknown origins, can contribute to United States commerce pursuits. The waiver allows for the use of the boat, despite the guidelines laid out in the Jones Act. 

What are the Requirements?

One of the most important things to remember to qualify for the MARAD small vessel waiver is that your boat must be at least three years old. At the same time, the boat can only carry a maximum of 12 passengers at one time. You cannot use the vessel for any other types of money-making endeavors, including transporting cargo, towing, fishing, or salvage. You are allowed to fish from the boat but cannot sell the fish or otherwise make money off the activity. Finally, the owner of the boat must be a citizen of the United States. 

Statements Necessary

As part of the waiver process, you will have to provide a couple of different statements that outline your intention and understanding of the purpose of the boat. That includes providing “a statement on the impact that this waiver will have on U.S. shipyards” and a statement that describes the “the impact that this vessel will have on other commercial passenger vessel operators, including a statement describing the operations of existing operators.” These impact statements ensure that your boat will contribute to commerce and not hinder the success of any other American boat operators. 

USCG Vessel Registry

When the Waiver is Approved

Once you have received an approved MARAD small vessel waiver, you can proceed with using your boat to transport passengers. However, the waiver doesn’t keep you from having to adhere to other guidelines and regulations. You will still have to undergo a vessel inspection and complete all relevant paperwork for your boat. This paperwork should be kept in a safe place on board so that you have it handy if you need to show it to the Coast Guard. Your next step is to file for a trade endorsement (if your boat is over 5 tons), which specifies the boat as a passenger vessel. 

Feeling overwhelmed? There’s a lot to consider if you want to use a foreign-made vessel for passenger transport in the United States. Failure to adhere to the requirements of the USCG Vessel Registry can result in hefty fines and could even leave you without your boat while you sort it out. Vessel Documentation Online is here to help you facilitate the process, from start to finish. Contact us today and we’ll help you get started.