How to Conduct A USCG Documentation Search by Number

You are looking for a way to find more information about a potential vessel, and want to know where to begin your search. You may think that the vessel looks to be in good condition, and that everything seems functional within the boat itself, but you also want to know more about the history of the vessel. This might include where the boat came from, and what it was used for previously, or it may also cover any financial need such as mortgages on the boat itself. The best way to discover the information you need is to conduct a USCG documentation search by number. This request will give you all of the necessary details about your vessel, and enough background information to decide whether you want to invest in the boat for the future.


What Is A Documentation Search?

When you are buying a second-hand vessel, you are most likely looking at a boat which has previously been registered with the Coast Guard. In the United States, the Coast Guard retains a registry with the details of all boats that have had documentation at one point or another. Certificates provided to the National Vessel Documentation Center contain information about the boat, including previous owners, previous bills of sale, and any mortgages or liens that are currently placed upon the vessel. When you conduct a documentation search, you are applying to the USCG website for the information held in this registry.


What Is A Number Search?

In order to obtain this information as quickly as possible, most buyers conduct the search using the vessel number. This is a unique number which is provided to the owners of the vessel when they receive the certificate of documentation. This number is an identifier of only one boat. In fact, even if the certificate of documentation lapses, this number is still retained. Therefore, in order to get the most out of your search, and to make it that much easier to find the boat that you need, you will have to conduct the search using this very specific number. Using the number will produce a very specific data file.

How to Search For a Vessel Number

If you want to make your search easier, then you should start looking for the vessel number on the boat itself. Depending upon the type of documentation that the boat has, the number can be located in a few different places. For proper documented vessels, the official number starting with “NO” is found in a very visible location on the interior of the hull. Some pleasure vessels will have the number written on the exterior of the hull, and other vessels will have this placed on the exterior of starboard and port bows, as well as the stern of the vessel.


What to Do If There Are No Numbers?

Even if you are not able to find a number on the body of the vessel, you can still conduct a document search to help you unravel whether the vessel is documented or not. It is possible to search for the vessel by name, although this is a less certain method since the name is not unique to the boat. You may be able to find documentation even if the vessel has not received any certificate, so long as a previous owner has applied for documentation in the past. Conducting this search, either by name or number, can be the best way to uncover more facts about the vessel you intend to buy.


Understanding Sales Tax with Documented Vessels

One important factor that you have to consider when you are conducting your documentation search is whether you need to pay for any sales tax. Some states, including California, have a sales and personal property taxation law which means that the purchase and ownership of any documented vessels in the state must be taxed. You will have to report your purchase of the vessel and provide information which may include a certificate of documentation to the state taxation department. There are a number of exemptions, so you will need to look closely at the rules in order to ensure that you comply with taxation regulations in your state.


Getting Help When You Conduct A USCG Documentation Search by Number

It is not always easy to navigate your way around the US Coast Guard website, and many people struggle to fill in all of the necessary information in order to get the right results when they are conducting a documentation search. In order to make your search easier, and to get the answer you are looking for, you may need to seek the help of the Maritime Documentation Center. Our experienced teams can help you to navigate your way through all of the forms, and we can also assist you with conducting the search or any follow-up Freedom of Information requests. To get assistance today, contact us via email on or call us at (800) 535-8570 now.