Certificate of Documentation: What to Know

Certificate of Documentation

Have you been wondering whether or not you should get a Certificate of Documentation for your vessel? If you have decided to apply for one, do you want to do so in the easiest, simplest manner possible? If so, we can help. Here at the Maritime Documentation Center, we have helped so many vessel owners from all walks of life to be able to get the proper registration for their vessels. 

This form is often the very first that a vessel owner acquires. At our site, you can find each of the forms that you’ll need for the duration of your vessel’s registration and beyond. 


Certain vessels can be documented whereas other vessels must be documented, per the law. If your vessel is owned by a citizen of the United States and measures five net tons, then it is eligible for vessel documentation. 

“Net tonnage” is not a measurement of weight. Rather, it is a measurement of volume. To determine whether your vessel meets this standard, you can have its volume measured or you can look at its length. If your vessel is 25 feet or longer, then it almost invariably is five net tons or more. 

Vessels that must be documented include those which are going to be used for coastwise trade or fishing activities on America’s navigable waters or in the “EEZ” (“Exclusive Economic Zone.”) In this context, “coastwise trade” is essentially defined as “transporting people and/or merchandise.” Should you decide to use your vessels for those purposes, then you should register them. 

That said, perhaps the most common reason that vessel owners decide to register their vessels is for a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. Vessel financing in America has been exchanged through preferred mortgages on documented vessels for more than one hundred years. 

No matter your reasons for documenting your vessels, you can find the CG 1258 Form and all of the forms you need right here. 

Initial USCG Boat Registration and USCG Renewal

We understand that many vessel owners, want to complete the documentation process as quickly and easily as possible. To that end, on each of our forms where applicable, we’ve added an asterisk next to the blanks that absolutely must be filled in.

The “Initial Registration” form is one of the most commonly used forms at our site. However, keep in mind: simply filling out the application does not entail a vessel to documentation. Additionally, should your vessel registration go through, it is valid for exactly one year. Then, your registration must be renewed. You can do this through our site as well. 

To make the process easier, you can renew your vessel’s registration for up to five years at one time. That way, you don’t have to worry about missing your renewal date, year after year. 

Sometimes, even conscientious vessel owners miss the renewal date. Should that occur, you cannot use the “Renewal” form at our site. However, all is not lost. Instead, if you want to maintain your vessel’s registration, you should utilize the “Reregistration” form. 

Certified Copy (COD)

For your Certificate of Documentation to be valid, you must have an actual, physical Certificate of Documentation. A picture of it, a copy you scanned, or some other form of duplication is not valid. Thus, if you lose your US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation or its mutilated/etc., then your registration will not be valid. To prevent this, vessel owners can obtain a Certified Copy. 

With this, you will have multiple copies of your USCGCertificate of Documentation. Should you lose one, your registration will still be valid. 

Note: acquiring a Certified Copy will not issue a new certificate, nor will it update your vessel registration expiration date. It is just a copy of the Certificate of Documentation that currently exists. However, we can help with updating your Certificate, renewal, and so forth. 

Replacement (COD)

Losing your Certificate of Documentation, or it somehow being damaged or even mutilated is more common than many vessel owners realize. It is entirely possible that this can occur before you are able to obtain a copy. Should you lose your Certificate, again, your vessel registration is not valid. So, you need to obtain a replacement certificate. You can do so through our site. 

This is only for replacing the Certificate you already have. This does not renew your registration, nor does it allow you to make changes to it, re-register it if it has expired, and so forth. This only allows you to obtain a copy. We understand that time is of the essence for many of our clients. As such, we offer rush processing/priority requests. Through this, we can put your request towards the top of our queue so that you can receive your replacement that much faster. 

Deletion (COD)

In time, your vessel may become unusable, unsalvageable, and so forth. Once you can no longer use the vessel, it is not necessary to maintain the registration. Through our site, you can delete your US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation in a simple and efficient manner. 

Many opt to delete their USCG Certificate of Documentation when they sell or transfer the vessel to someone for foreign use. If your vessel is not going to be used in the United States, then your Certificate of Documentation must be deleted. 

Changing Your Information 

When changes occur in your life or to your vessel, you must update your registration. We have the forms to do that here at our site as well. Should you change your address from the one that is tied to your registration, then you should use the “Change of Address” form. If you move your vessel (or decide to change your vessel’s name) then we have the form for that as well. 

You also need to update your registration should you decide to change how you use your vessel. For example, if you initially got your vessel to be used for fishing activities but have decided that you want to utilize it for coastwise trade, then you need to update your registration in that regard. To that end, you can find the “Change of Endorsement/Trade Indicator” form at our site. 

A Better Way to Handle Your Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation 

The above are just the forms that we offer that are directly tied to your US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation. We have many, many other forms that could be right for you and your vessel. For example, we offer a COD transcript or, if you registered your vessel for a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage, you can find the form to apply for one of those as well. 

To see all of the forms that we offer, click here. Safe travels! 


Certificate of Documentation What You Need to Know