How Do I Find the Previous Owner of a Vessel?

To find the previous owner of a documented vessel, request a USCG Abstract of Title. This will include not just the owner of a vessel but the entire chain of ownership of the vessel. You will have access to the names of the previous owners as well as the status of any liens/mortgages recorded against the vessel.

You can search the USCG documented vessel database by Hull Identification Number (HIN) or official number.

That search reveals the vessel’s particulars/dimension, Service Information, certifications, documents, (such as the status of its current Certificate of Documentation), and more. It will not show you the vessel’s owner nor their address, as access to that information was removed in 2018.

Buying a Boat Without a Title: What to Know

Should you find yourself buying a boat without a title, there are two likely scenarios. You may have purchased a small vessel with a lost title. Or, more likely, the vessel is longer than 27 feet, and you can find its name/hailing port marked on the back. In that case, it is a USCG documented vessel.

Where Can I Find the HIN Number on a Vessel?

The HIN number is to a boat as the VIN number is to a car. This 12 or 14 character number identifies each boat. Any vessel that was manufactured or imported after or on November 1st, 1972 has to have a HIN.

What does it mean to reinstate a certificate?

If your boat’s Certificate of Documentation (COD) has lapsed, you must reinstate it with the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center in order to remain compliant with federal regulations.

If it has been more than 30 days since your vessel documentation expired, then you cannot renew your USCG documentation. Instead, you must reinstate it.

What is a hailing port?

When it comes to vessel documentation, you should choose the endorsement that fits how you plan to use the vessel. If you are just going to use the vessel for fun, to have a good time, then your endorsement should be for “Recreation.” You should also choose that endorsement if you are just registering your vessel so that you can apply for a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. A hailing port is a term used in the context of United States vessel documentation. It is a required field for all USCG documentation and serves as the designated port of origin for vessels that have been documented with the Coast Guard. The hailing port must be a U.S. Port, and it will appear on the vessel's Certificate of Documentation.

What is a Hull Identification Number?

Abbreviated “HIN,” is, more or less, the equivalent of a car’s VIN (“Vehicle Identification Number.”) The HIN is a 12 or 14-character number that identifies a specific vessel. You may have seen older vessels that don’t have a HIN. That’s because vessels that were manufactured or imported before 1973 are exempt from having a HIN.

What is the Registry Endorsement?

This is the USCG documentation endorsement for engaging in international/foreign trade. Additionally, it allows the vessel to engage in any international/foreign employment a Coastwise or Fishery endorsement is not required for.

How Can I Check My Vessel Documentation?

Do you want to check the expiration date of your vessel documentation? All you have to do is to look at your current Certification of Documentation. If you look on the lower-left corner of the front page, you’ll find the boat documentation’s expiration date.