How to Get Information with a Documented Vessel Search

When you are considering buying a new boat or yacht, you need to know as much as possible about the vessel before you hand over any money. In order to ensure that the vessel you are buying is legal in the US, and can be bought without any consequences, you need to perform a documented vessel search. This will not only tell you if the boat is fully documented, but will also give you important information about its history, and whether there will be any financial demands left on the boat after you buy it. All of this information is extremely important, and by getting assistance with the vessel search, you can manage your purchase more easily.


Beginning a Search

The first steps towards beginning your search start at the USCG pages. You will be able to search for a Certificate of Documentation, which is evidence that the previous owners have applied for documentation themselves, or an Abstract of Title. This should give you all of the information that you need about the previous history of the boat, the owners, and whether it is the right vessel for you. Obtaining this information can make it much easier for you to judge whether you want the boat or not.


What Vessels Are Covered By A Certificate Of Documentation?

If you are looking at a particular vessel as a potential purchase, then searching for a certificate of title is only valuable if they conform to the requirements of a Merchant Vessel. These include vessels which are more than five tons, and that have some commercial use including fisheries, trade and passenger vessels. If the boat has purely been used for pleasure, as a personal yacht for example, then the boat may not be documented. Smaller boats, and those which exclusively trade in foreign waters, are not documented, and so a search will not provide any further information.

How to Tell If a Boat Is Documented

When a boat receives a certificate of documentation, the owner will be obliged to mark the boat in certain ways. For example, the official number, which begins ‘NO’, will be written clearly in some interior part of the hull. The markings must also be visible on the outside of the boat. If you are examining the vessel with a view to buying, you should look for these marks, or ask the owner if these marks exist on his vessel.  Discovering these numbers will allow you to conduct a full search for information on the vessel. If you don’t find this information, but believe that the boat is documented, then you can search for it by name.


What Is Revealed With a Documented Vessel Search?

When you look for information on a vessel from the National Vessel Documentation Center, then you will get some data on the vessel. The file you will receive usually contains information about the particulars of the boat, and identification information on both the vessel and the owner. The latter will not be terribly detailed, and more information might be necessary if you want to know the full history of the vessel and the seller.  If you receive information about the boat from a data file, that means that it is still documented, and you will be able to buy the boat and then simply re-register it in your name. If there is no file, then the vessel is either not from the US, or it doesn’t meet the specifications for vessel documentation in the US. Buying a boat without a certificate of documentation is much more of a risk.


Obtaining More Information

If you need more details about the vessel than are provided by a standard search, then you will need to apply for the associated documents and attached data via a Freedom of Information Act request. You will not get any detailed information about the boat owner, but you will be able to obtain more details about the boat, its condition, and previous owners. This can be particularly important if there are any bank liens on the vessel or other financial ties that make it unsuitable for you. You can submit a FOIA form to the Coast Guard in order to obtain this detailed information.


Getting Help with Your Documentation Search

Many people find that using the National Vessel Documentation Center’s pages is more complicated than they expected, and that they are not always able to find the information that they seek from these pages. We understand. If you need help with finding out more about your potential vessel, then you can get assistance from the Maritime Documentation Center for a Documented Vessel Search. Our experts can help you to submit forms and get the right info that you need learn more about your boat. To start working with us today, email us at, or call us at (800) 535-8570 now.