Is Documentation with the US Coast Guard Mandatory? What are the Requirements?

You just purchased your dream boat after getting a great deal. You are excited about your first trip. One of your friends congratulated you on the new boat. He asked about the vessel documentation. You wonder if it is necessary? What are the USCG vessel documentation requirements? This is what you will find out in this post. 

Knowing the USCG Vessel Documentation Requirements 

As a boat owner in the US, understanding the requirements for vessel documentation with the United States Coast Guard is vital. Some boat owners register their vessels with their respective states. But others opt for federal documentation. This is especially true if they plan to engage in certain types of maritime activities. 

Is Documentation Mandatory? 

The short answer is no. Documentation with the US Coast Guard is not mandatory for all vessels. However, there are specific scenarios in which federal documentation is required. The decision to document your vessel with the USCG or register it with your state largely depends on your boat’s size, use, and intended activities. 

When It Is Required? 

Vessel Size 

Federal documentation is typically required for vessels that are at least 5 net tons in weight. Net tonnage is a measure of a boat’s cargo-carrying capacity. It is different from gross tonnage, which measures the overall size of the vessel. Most recreational boats are not subject to this requirement as they fall below the 5 net ton threshold. 

Commercial Use 

If you intend to use it for commercial activities, such as fishing, towing, or passenger transpiration, federal documentation is often mandatory. It is true, regardless of the vessel’s size. 

International Voyages 

Using your boat for international voyages, including traveling to foreign ports or engaging in international trade, is required to be federally documented. 

Mortgages and Liens

Some financial institutions may require federal documentation when a vessel is used as collateral for a loan or has liens against it. 

What are the Requirements? 

If your vessel needs to be documented, you must meet specific requirements to complete the process: 

  • Ownership: You must be a US citizen or eligible entity to document a vessel with the USCG. Eligible entities may include corporations, partnerships, or other entities meeting specific criteria. 
  • Vessel inspection: In some cases, vessels may be subject to inspection by the USCG or other authorized agencies to ensure compliance with safety and equipment standards. 
  • Application Submission: You need to complete the appropriate USCG application form. You should also provide supporting documentation, and pay the applicable fees. These forms can vary depending on the type of documentation needed, like initial documentation, renewal, or transfer
  • Payment of Fees: Federal documentation comes with associated fees, including an initial issuance fee, renewal fees, and fees for additional services such as name changes or transfers. 
  • Compliance with Regulations: Vessels seeking federal documentation must comply with the USCG regulations. 

USCG Vessel Documentation Requirements

Not Mandatory 

Documentation with the USCG is not mandatory for all vessels. However, specific circumstances may necessitate federal documentation. As a boat owner, you should carefully evaluate your boat’s intended use. If you are still not sure about USCG vessel documentation requirements, please give our experts a call.