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.” 

In regards to size requirements, look to the part that reads: “any vessel of at least five net tons.” That’s a measurement not of weight but of size. “Net tonnage” does not measure weight. Vessel owners can choose to have their vessels measured or check the length of their vessels. A vessel that is 25 feet or longer almost invariably measures five net tons. 

In regards to marking requirements, according to “Official number marking requirement,” 46 CFR 67.121, “the official number of the vessel, preceded by the abbreviation “NO.” must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three inches in height in some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number must be permanently affixed to the vessel so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious. If the official number is on a separate plate, the plate must be fastened in such a manner that its removal would normally cause some scarring of or damage to the surrounding hull area.” 

Additionally, for “Name and hailing port marking requirements,” 46 CFR 67.123, “the name of the vessel must be marked on some clearly visible exterior part of the port and starboard bow and the stern of the vessel. The hailing port of the vessel must be marked on some clearly visible exterior part of the stern of the vessel.” 

Additionally, the markings “may be made by the use of any means and materials which results in durable markings, must be made in clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals not less than four inches in height.” 

Use this form to apply for initial USCG boat documentation

Vessel owners looking to renew can use this form to renew boat registration.