Coast Guard (USCG) vessel documentation is a national form of registration
detailed in Title 46 CFR part 67 in which towboats and all vessels weighing
five net tons or more are required to take part.
will need to apply for a vessel certificate with the National Vessel
Documentation Center (NVDC), and upon successful application, the Coast Guard
will issue a vessel certification documentation number to the vessel owner.
What is vessel
Vessel documentation dates back to the
11th Act of the First Congress:
it is a means for:
conclusive evidence of nationality for international purposes;
- allowing unimpeded
commerce between the states; and
- vessels to be
commissioned in restricted trades, such as coastwise trade and the fisheries.
five net tons or those used for fishing or coastwise trade must be documented.
Note that if the vessel is not wholly owned by a U.S. citizen, it is not
eligible for documentation.
How do you apply for
You can apply
for a vessel certificate of documentation by submitting an application to the NVDC,
along with the appropriate fees. Because fees are subject to change, applicants
will need to contact the NVDC to inquire about the current fee schedule.
application form you’ll need to submit is referred to as Form CG-1258, the Application for Initial, Exchange or
Replacement of Certificate of Documentation; Redocumentation. It’s available for download on
the NVDC website.
On the application, you’ll be required
to provide information including:
- the hull I.D.
- the IMO number;
- your contact
- your tax I.D or
Social Security number;
- the build and year
of your vessel;
- the length and
horsepower of your vessel;
- the specific endorsements
for which you are applying.
Make sure you
fill out the application correctly and in its entirety to avoid delays in receiving
You can submit your application for
- mail (792 TJ Jackson Drive, Falling
Waters, WV 25419);
- fax (304-271-2405); or
- email (NVDC.PDF.FILING@uscg.mil).
Note that those
filing via email may fax credit card information with a copy of the email to the
fax number mentioned above.
I received my
documentation. Now what?
USCG approves your application and issues you a vessel certification
documentation number, you must properly display your vessel number.
explains: “The official number assigned to documented vessels, preceded by the
abbreviation "NO." must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals at
least three inches high on some clearly visible interior structural part of the
hull. The number must be permanently affixed so that alteration, removal, or
replacement would be obvious and cause some scarring or damage to the
surrounding hull area.”
You will be
required to renew your vessel documentation annually. To learn about renewal
procedures, contact the NVDC or read their online instruction letter, Renewal of Certificate of Documentation.
Stay Up-to-Date on
To read more about regulations and other topics of interest
for vessel owners, peruse the Marine Education Textbooks blog. You might also enjoy our downloadable Free
Guidebook that contains recommended study material for all U.S.
Merchant Marine Ratings for Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED).