Documentation of a vessel is a national form of registration. It dates back to the 11th Act of the First Congress and is one of the oldest functions of the U.S. Government. There are many reasons to document a pleasure boat or commercial vessel. Federal documentation is often preferred because the ownership of documented vessels is easier to trace through the United States Coast Guard Abstract of Title. This federal system provides a greater assurance of title over state registrations because of the USCG rigid standards in chain-of-title and paperwork procedures. Once initial documentation is complete, a six or seven digit Official Number is issued to the vessel which must be permanently affixed to the structure of the hull and a Certificate of Documentation is issued to the owner(s).
The additional and perhaps most important reason to document a vessel is because most lending institutions will require USCG Documentation to allow them to record a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. This instrument provides the greatest protection for the lender because it is enforceable throughout the United States and some foreign countries.
If the vessel travels to foreign waters, the Certificate of Documentation facilitates clearance with foreign governments and provides certain protection by the U.S. flag. Also documentation eliminates the need for state registration numbers on the bow.
Most are required to be documented by the USCG to be engaged in trade. Various endorsements relating to the primary trade are made to the Certificate of Documentation such as coastwise, fishery or registry. Commercial vessels also are available for filing of a Preferred Ship’s Mortgage. We offer experience with all classes of documentation.
What vessels are required by law to be documented?
Any vessel of at least five (5) net tons which engages in the fisheries, Great Lakes trade, or coastwise trade must be documented, except:
- A vessel which does not operate on the navigable waters of the United States. (An example would be a vessel which navigates only on sole state waters.) Such a vessel may be documented if it meets the other requirements for documentation.
- A non-self propelled vessel when used within a harbor, in a whole or in part on the rivers or inland lakes of the United States, or in whole or in part on the internal waters or canals of any state.
What requirements must be met before a vessel can be documented?
- The owner must be a United States citizen.
- The vessel must be five (5) net tons or over.
- Vessels which are not required by law to be documented may be documented if the requirements of a. and b. above are met. This includes vessels used exclusively for pleasure and vessels used in foreign trade.
What special markings must a documented vessel have?
- The official number, preceded by the abbreviation “NO” will be marked by some permanent method on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number shall be in block-type arabic numerals not less than three (3) inches in height.
- Pleasure vessels will have the name and hailing port of the vessel marked together in clearly legible letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of the hull.
- Other vessels will have the name of the vessel marked in clearly legible letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of the port and starboard bow, and the stern of the vessel. The hailing port of the vessel shall be similarly marked on the stern of the vessel.
- The means and materials used to display the name and hailing port shall result in durable markings. A board attached to the vessel with the name and hailing port marked on it is not an acceptable marking.
First Time Documentation of a vessel includes First Preferred Ships Mortgage.
Re-documentation of a vessel includes First Preferred Ships Mortgage.
First time documentation of a commercial vessel includes Corporate ownership, commercial endorsement and First Preferred Ships Mortgage.
Re-documentation of a commercial vessel includes Corporate ownership, commercial endorsement and First Preferred Ships Mortgage.
- First Preferred Ships Mortgage – Prepare and record.
- Vessel name or hailing port change.
- Abstract of Title.
- Satisfaction of Mortgage.
- Lost document replacement.
- Annual documentation renewal.
Perry Neblett P.A. has considerable experience in vessel documentation. We navigate the very stringent requirements and complex issues of processing to facilitate a successful documentation. After the necessary information is collected and title research is obtained we’ll prepare and process your documents ready for signing and submission to the Coast Guard in no more than a few hours when necessary. Regardless of whether you are around the corner or across the country, our office is staffed and equipped with the latest technology to phone, fax or electronically communicate.