Do I Need US Coast Guard Vessel Documentation?

First, you must be eligible for vessel documentation.


A vessel that measures at least five net tons and is wholly owned by an American citizen is eligible.


Vessels that must be documented include those that meet the above standards and are used for commercial fishing activities on the navigable waters of the United States or in the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). Additionally, vessels which engage in coastwise trade (transporting people and/or merchandise) on those same waters also must be documented.


Vessel financing has been enhanced through the availability of preferred mortgages on documented vessels since 1920.


Vessel documentation is a national form of boat registration with the United States Coast Guard.

It provides for unhindered commerce between states and provides conclusive evidence of nationality.


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.


For vessels that have never been documented, use this link for first-time Coast Guard 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 for boat documentation renewal.


For a recently purchased vessel that already has a documented vessel number, use this form for a Transfer Exchange of USCG Documentation.

If you have further questions about American vessel documentation, contact the Vessel Registrar Center at or (800) 535-8570 Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM.