If you own and operate a boat that is registered with the United States Coast Guard, there are certain documents and proof of identification that you must have on file. This is for your own protection, but also for the benefit of others on the water. Coast Guard registration ensures assistance if you have an emergency on the water and often allows for the use of your boat for commerce purposes. Keep reading to find out what the U.S. Coast Guard requirements are for identification purposes.
Vessel Documentation Number (VDN)
This is a unique number assigned to a boat. The boat will keep the number, even if it’s sold and it’s not assigned to the owner, but rather to the vessel itself. This is the same as the serial number or official number. This number allows the boat to be tracked by the United States Coast Guard to prove ownership and keep people safe on the water. You can find the vessel documentation number on the Certificate of Documentation or other official paperwork associated with the boat.
Certificate of Documentation
This is a piece of paper that allows permission by the Coast Guard to operate your vessel in United States waters. This requires proof of insurance and inspection and must be renewed regularly. The Certificate of Documentation contains data that is unique to the boat, but also information about the owner. If the boat is sold, that information must be updated so it’s current in the USCG database.
Certificate of Inspection
This document certifies that your boat has been inspected and meets Coast Guard requirements. It proves that your boat is seaworthy and not likely to cause problems when it’s out on the water. Inspections are valid for 5 years, but you may need to prove one more often for renewal purposes, or if you plan to sell your boat. Be sure the inspection is carried out by a USCG-approved entity.
Hull Identification Number (HIN)
The hull identification number is another set of characters that is unique to your boat. You can liken it to the vehicle identification number that goes with your car, truck, or SUV. Like the vessel documentation, the HIN is issued for the vessel, not the owner, and will stay with the boat for its lifespan. This number is found on the boat’s stern and is a way to quickly identify the vessel when it’s on the water. You can find this number on any official documentation associated with the boat.
Other Official Documents
Most boats have a variety of official documents that are relevant to the vessel. Some of them can be used for identification purposes. That might be a bill of sale, a transfer of ownership, or other paperwork that has been filed in regard to the boat. Look for official numbers for the best means of identifying a vessel.
Need more help with the identification process? We can help you understand the U.S. Coast Guard requirements and assist you in finding the correct forms for your purposes. Contact the Vessel Registrar Center today to get started.