Must my vessel be documented?

Vessel documentation is required for any vessel that measures five net tons or more, is owned by an American citizen, and will be operated in certain trades, according to the Code of Federal Regulations.

A vessel must be documented if it will be used in fishing activities and/or coastwise trade on the navigable waters of the United States or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Dredges, towboats, and vessels that conduct salvaging activities that operate in those same waters also must be documented.

“Coastwise trade,” as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations, “includes the transportation of passengers or merchandise between points embraced within the coastwise laws of the United States.”

In this context, fishing activities include “processing, storing, transporting (except in foreign commerce), planting, cultivating, catching, taking, or harvesting fish, shellfish, marine animals, pearls, shells, or marine vegetation.”

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the United States “extends no more than 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline and is adjacent to the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the United States,” according to the National Ocean Service. This includes Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.