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.

How to Get a Boat Hull Identification Number

Typically, a boat Hull Identification Number is issued by the vessel’s manufacturer or importer. However, if your vessel is home-built, then they can be issued by your respective State Registrars/DMVs.

What is Net Tonnage Exactly?

Coast Guard documentation requirements for eligibility state that a vessel has to measure at least five net tons. This “net tonnage” is not a measurement of weight. Rather, it’s a measurement of volume.

Do I Need a Fishery Endorsement?

USCG documented vessels require a fishery endorsement to land its catch, wherever it is caught, in the United States. This is the endorsement to engage in fishing activities on the navigable waters of the United States or in the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

How Do I Find My Hailing Port?

Your hailing port is where your vessel claims origin. You can choose your hailing port to be anywhere you would like, provided it is a place in the United States. Specifically, so long as it is in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 55DC, you can select a designated location or place as your hailing port. Coastal, landlocked, you can choose anywhere you would like.

Your hailing port does not have to be the vessel’s physical location nor where it resides the most. In fact, it does not have to be anywhere the vessel is registered, either.

Does My Boat Name Have to Be Registered?

Should you have documented your vessel with the USCG, then both the name as well as the hailing port are registered. Specifically, they’re registered on your CG-1270 Certificate of Documentation.

Vessels registered with a state (as opposed to the USCG) do not require listing a vessel’s name on the registration documentation.

To document your vessel with the Coast Guard, complete this form.

Do I Need State Title for Coast Guard Ship Registration?

No. In fact, a USCG documented vessel cannot also have a State title. You must surrender your vessel’s State title to document/register it with the USCG. It is illegal to have a Certificate of Documentation and State Title simultaneously.
Initial USCG Documentation 
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.

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.