What You Need to Know about USCG Vessel Documentation

by | Tuesday, June 24, 2014 |

United States 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.

Vessel owners 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 documentation?

Vessel documentation dates back to the 11th Act of the First Congress: it is a means for:

  • providing 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.

Vessels over 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 vessel documentation?

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.

The 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. number;
  • the IMO number;
  • your contact information;
  • your tax I.D or Social Security number;
  • the build and year of your vessel;
  • the length and horsepower of your vessel; and
  • 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 your certificate.

You can submit your application for documentation via:

  • 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?

After the USCG approves your application and issues you a vessel certification documentation number, you must properly display your vessel number.

The NVDC 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 Mariner Topics

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).

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