Define HIN

To Define HIN:  
For vessel documentation purposes, “HIN” means “Hull Identification Number.” This number is the identifying code for a specific vessel. Think of it as a vessel’s fingerprint. It’s the equivalent of a car’s VIN.  No other boat has the same HIN. 

Consisting of 12 to 14 characters, a HIN displays who manufactured the vessel as well as when among other information. 

The first three digits of a HIN are the “Manufacturer’s Identification Code.” This reveals who manufactured the vessel. Examples include “LWE” for “Lowe Boats,” “YAM” for “Yamaha Motor Corp. USA,” “CCB” for “Chris Craft Boats,” and so forth. 

The following five digits are the serial number the manufacturer assigned to the hull. These can be both numbers and letters. However, as the letters “Q,” “O,” and “I” could potentially be mistaken for numbers, they are not used. 

To the right of that (and fourth from the right) is a letter. This letter tells you the month when construction on the vessel began. Each letter corresponds to a month: 3 for March, 2 for February, 12 for December, etc. 

The next number (and third from the right) displays the last digit of the year when the vessel was built. For example, a vessel built in 2014 would have a “4.” 

The last two numbers, (the ones furthest to the right) display the vessel’s model year. 

The above format applies to vessels that have been manufactured since August 1st, 1984. All vessels must bear a HIN if they were manufactured or imported on or after the date of November 1st, 1972. Vessels manufactured or imported before that date are exempt. 
Boat Search, Abstract of Title, and Others
You can search for vessels by HIN or Official Number through our site. This will provide information such as the vessel’s name, its flag, its service (endorsement), its length, breadth, depth, its tonnage, when it was documented with the USCG and when that documentation will expire as well as other information. 

Use this link to conduct a documented boat search.

What Do I Have to Do With a Certificate of Documentation?

A Certificate of Documentation must remain on board a documented vessel according to 46 CFR 67.313. 

That states, under “Requirement to have Certificate of Documentation on board,” that “the person in command of a documented vessel must have on board that vessel the original Certificate of Documentation currently in effect for that vessel.” 

How Can I Find Out Who Owns This Yacht?

You can apply for an Abstract of Title to learn the identity of the owner of a vessel. This form will include not just the current vessel owner but also the chain of ownership for the time that the vessel was documented. Additionally, this form will include any encumbrances against a vessel, such as whether there are any mortgages/liens, whether they were satisfied, and so forth. 

Use this form to apply for a USCG Abstract of Title

You can conduct a search of vessel documentation through our site. This will not include the identity of the owner, but it will include the vessel’s dimensions, its name, Official Number, HIN, tonnage information, Certificate of Documentation information (such as date of issuance and expiration) as well as other information. 

Use this link to complete a US Coast Guard Documentation search through our site.

How Do I Check if a Documented Vessel Has a Lien Against It?

To discover if a documented vessel has an outstanding lien or mortgage against it (or had one in the past that was satisfied), vessel owners can apply for an Abstract of Title. 

This form will contain that information about encumbrances such as liens and mortgages. Additionally, the Abstract will include information about the vessel’s current ownership as well as its chain of ownership. This information was removed from vessel documentation searches sometime in 2018. 

Use this link to apply for a USCG Abstract of Title.

What Are the Coast Guard Requirements for Boats?

To be eligible for USCG vessel documentation, the Coast Guard requirements for boats include citizen requirements, size (tonnage) requirements, and marking requirements. 

First, according to 46 CFR 67.5, “any vessel of at least five net tons wholly owned by a citizen or citizens of the United States is eligible for documentation. This includes, but is not limited to, vessels used exclusively for recreational purposes and vessels used in foreign trade.” 

Are There Advantages to US Coast Guard Boat Documentation?

US Coast Guard Boat Documentation Advantages
Yes. Documented vessels are allowed into certain trades, such as the fisheries or engaging in coastwise trade (such as transporting people and/or merchandise) on the navigable waters of the United States or the Exclusive Economic Zone. Eligible vessels are unable to do so without documentation. 

Furthermore, vessel documentation often makes clearing customers easier, dealing with foreign ports and the like. 
Documented Vessels Can Apply for a Preferred Ship's Mortgage
USCG documentation makes it possible for financial institutions to offer a Preferred Mortgage. For a majority of vessel owners who wish to finance a vessel, they will most likely have to document their vessels. 

Use this form to apply for initial US Coast Guard boat documentation.

Vessel owners who wish to do so can use this form to apply for a Preferred Ship's Mortgage.
Endorsements and Vessel Documentation Laws
When documenting a vessel, vessel owners must choose an endorsement for their vessel. Examples of these include "Registry," "Coastwise," "Fishery," and "Recreational." All vessels can be used recreationally but vessels with a "Recreational" endorsement can only be used for recreation.

Do I Need a Title for My Documented Vessel?


You do not need a title for Coast Guard documented vessels. 

Vessels that are documented do not have titles. Instead, they maintain Certificates of Documentation. Depending on the laws in your state, your vessel may need to be registered with the state as well.
Documented Vessel Eligibility
If you are a citizen of the United States and your vessel measures at least five net tons, then your vessel is eligible for documentation.

Use this link to apply to make yours a Coast Guard documented vessel

This documentation provides for unhindered commerce between states, admits vessels to restricted trades (such as the fisheries and coastwise trade), and provides conclusive evidence of nationality.
Maintaining Your Vessel Documentation 
Coast Guard vessel documentation has to be renewed every year. However, this can be renewed for 1-5 years from the date of issuance. Vessel owners can use this link to renew vessel documentation.

What is a Documented Vessel and How Can I Tell If I Have One?

Documented vessels are those which have a valid Certificate of Documentation from the US Coast Guard. These vessels are wholly owned by an American citizen (or citizens) and measure at least five net tons. 

Use this link to apply for initial US Coast Guard boat documentation

Documented vessels never have “titles,” instead they have Certificates of Documentation. 

On some interior structural part of the vessel’s hull, the vessel’s Official Number (following the abbreviation “NO.”) will be marked in block-type Arabic numerals that are at least three inches in height. 

You should also be able to find the vessel’s name and hailing port on the vessel’s transom or “back end.” 

If you’re unable to find the Official Number, Certificate of Documentation, and so forth, you can search for the vessel using its HIN (Hull Identification Number) through our site. 

The HIN is printed or engraved on the vessel’s aft starboard corner.

Use this link to conduct a US vessel documentation search

The vessel will appear in the results if it has been documented.

What is the Process to Renew Boat Registration (CG-1280)?

Vessel owners can use this link to renew boat registration

Documentation must be renewed annually. Through our site, vessel owners will have the option to renew their documentation for up to five years in advance. 

This only pertains to Federal documentation through the United States Coast Guard. In regards to State registration, refer to the rules in your particular state. 

Renewing less than 60 days before the expiration date is recommended. Renewing more than 60 days prior to expiration will issue renewal with a new expiration and issuance date, thus shortening the documentation’s period of validity. 

Vessel owners can renew their documentation up to 30 days after the expiration date. 

After that period, vessel owners cannot “renew” their documentation. However, they can reinstate it. Vessel owners can use this link to reinstate their vessel documentation.

Is a Hull ID (HIN) the Same as a Vessel’s Serial Number?

Yes. For all intents and purposes, a HIN (Hull Identification Number) can be thought of as a boat's serial number. Similar to a VIN that you would find on a car, a HIN is a unique 12 to 14-character number which identifies a boat. 

Every boat that was manufactured or imported on or after November 1st, 1972 must have a HIN. Any vessels that were imported or manufactured before that are not required to have one. 

To find a HIN, check the boat’s transom, on the starboard side within two inches of the transom’s top. Should the vessel not have a transom, you will most likely find the HIN on the starboard outboard side of the hull, within a foot of the stern.

Is There a NVDC USCG Official Number Lookup?


Vessel owners can use this link to conduct a Coast Guard registered vessel search. 

Using either a HIN (Hull Identification Number) or Official Number, users can find a vessel’s flag, its Official Number, HIN, name, service information, tonnage information, dimensions, and even when its Certificate of Documentation was issued as well as when it will expire. 

This search cannot be used to find the owner of a vessel. However, those interested in finding the owner of a vessel as well as if there are any encumbrances (such as mortgages and/or liens) against a vessel can use this link to apply for an Abstract of Title.