Applying for Certificate of Number for a Vessel

by | Monday, July 14, 2014 |

Most vessels must have some form of vessel documentation if they are to be used on U.S. waters.

The agency with which you apply and the vessel documentation requirements depend upon the size of your vessel:

  • Larger vessels – ships weighing five tons or more need to apply for a certificate of number for a vessel with the federal government through the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC), a division of the United States Coast Guard; or
  • Smaller vessels – smaller, undocumented boats will need to apply for a certificate of number for a boat with the state.

Applying for a Certificate of Number for a Vessel through the NVDC

Vessels over five tons used in fisheries on U.S. navigable water or in the Exclusive Economic Zone, in Great Lakes trade, or in coastwise trade must be documented through the NVDC.

To apply for a certificate of number:

Registering Your Boat Locally

If your boat does not meet the USCG’s requirements for documentation, you’ll need to register it with your state. Each state provides its own rules regarding certificate of numbers for vessels and boats, so you’ll need to check with your state for specifics.

Your state agency may provide you with a handout that explains the legal requirements of boating.

Important information you’ll want to look for includes:

  • types of vessels that must be registered and types of vessels that are exempt;
  • where/how the vessel registration number must be displayed;
  • rules regarding Hull Identification Numbers;
  • protocols for change of address and lost or damaged vessels;
  • renewal information; and
  • the fee schedule (fees are usually determined by the length of the vessel).

Why is a certificate of number necessary?

Vessel registration and documentation serves numerous purposes, such as:

  • helps prove ownership;
  • eliminates a lot red tape and legal hindrances when involved in commerce, particularly with international trade;
  • serves as evidence of nationality for international purposes;
  • allows vessels to operate for certain purposes (e.g., fishing endorsements); and
  • funds marine safety.

“When you register your boat, you do your part in sustaining resources that promote safe and responsible use of our nation's waters. Your registration dollars also help pay for marinas, boat ramps, lake clean up and much more,” explains the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

More Helpful Information for Vessel Owners

In addition to displaying your certificate of number for your vessel, you might also be required by the USCG to display various types of signage on your boat. To determine which sigs pertain to your particular vessel, you can download a free copy of Marine Safety Markings and Signs Catalog.

For more informative articles of interest to vessel owners and those involved in the maritime industry, feel free to visit Marine Education Textbooks blog

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