How and Where to display USCG Vessel Number (shown here)

Learn the three most important USCG documented boat marking requirements for the number, name , and hailing port. Proper display of USCG NO.

Example display of USCG No. for a documented vessel - Marking Requirements
Example display of USCG No. for a documented vessel

How and Where to display the Official USCG vessel number

Having a boat documented with the Coat Guard is a good thing, but knowing vessel marking requirements is another thing. The ID number of the vessel stays with it for life so its important to get it right. In other words, it is imperative to know how and where to display the official USCG vessel number so you don’t get in trouble with the Coast Guard.

It is important to know the requirements and how to display the vessel number if you have a boat or planning to acquire one. In today’s blog post we will explain all you need to know about vessel marking requirements, what is a documented vessel, who issues the official the official number, where on a boat are registration numbers placed, where to order plaques for your USCG number, how to place the USCG plaque number and more.

Documented Vessels at the USCG (What is a documented vessel)

The USCG vessel documentation implies the process of recording or registering your boat with the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In other words, your boat is being titled on a national level. This is opposite to state level titling or registration at the DNR.

The difference between the USCG vessel documentation and state registration is that the USCG vessel documentation is carried out at the federal level whereas the state titling occurs at the state level.

Your vessel must follow the following requirements to be eligible:

  • The vessel should be at least 5 net tons
  • The owner of the vessel must fill out an online application for USCG documentation at the National Vessel Documentation Center
  • The vessel must have a hull number
  • The owners of the vessel must be a US citizens either by birth or naturalization
  • Boats that are 25 feet in length and larger are qualified for the USCG documentation.

Note: Your documented vessel may not have a state certificate of title but can be registered in the state of operation. For instance, a state like Maryland, New York can document and have a state registration of the vessel. While in other states like Florida, North Carolina needs the vessel to be erased from the USCG before it can be state titled. When a vessel becomes federally Documented, the state registration must be deleted but check with your state to be sure.

What are the advantages of Documenting my boat with the Coast Guard?

There are several reasons why Coast Guard Vessel documentation may be beneficial to you. Below are some advantages;

  • When You Require a Boat Loan – Boat documentation makes it easier and seamless to get bank financing. A bank will often stipulate that boat must be documented. A documented vessel is qualified for a preferred ship mortgage; hence, lenders will always ask for a documented vessel.
  • International Water Operations – If you plan to utilize your boat in international waters, you sure need a Certificate of Documentation (COD).
  • Visible Boat Name Instead of State Registration Numbers– Another point why it is advantageous for your boat to be USCG documented is the opportunity to display your boat name instead of the state registration number on the bow and hull. A documented vessel does not display state registration numbers, rather the name and hailing port are boldly written.

The certificate of documentation is recognized globally making it easier to get into foreign ports. Documentation makes it easier to establish the identity of the vessel when cruising foreign waters (the Coast Guard Documentation serves as a “passport” for the vessel).

USCG Official Number – Vessel Marking Requirements

Every documented vessel will have a documented vessel number. This official number is 6 to 7 digits. As stated above, it is imperative to document your vessel due to the multiple benefits/requirements. Each documented vessel will be given a documentation number. The number stays with it for life.

Next, let’s understand some who issues the official number, where or how to place it, vessel requirements, and more.

Who Issues the Official Number?

The National Vessel Documentation Center NVDC is solely responsible for the issuance of vessel documentation numbers in the US. Vessel owners are expected to apply for a vessel certificate with NVDC. Once the application is successful, the USCG would issue a vessel certification documentation number.

Where on a Boat are Registration numbers placed? – Where to put numbers on a boat

You may be wondering where or how to place USCG Documentation Number plate. Well, it is usually placed permanently on your vessel. The federal documentation number is visibly affixed to the interior of the boat. Whereas, the state registration number is always in the bow of the vessel. Once your USCG documentation number is permanently attached to your boat, you can then use it for international operations.

Vessel Marking Requirement from the USCG

You will need to know the marking requirements for three things: Vessel Official Number, vessel name, and hailing port.

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 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.

When it comes to vessel name, we covered it in detail in the article on how to Name your Boat the RIGHT way – Rules for naming USCG Documented Vessels. Just note that Federally documented vessel names have character requirements to be of durable material no less than 4 inches in height. the hailing port should be marked with the vessel name together in a visible spot on the stern. Commercial vessels must place it on both sides of the bow.

Example marking of boat name and hailing port
Example marking of boat name and hailing port

How do you mark a vessel?

As per the regulations, it needs to be of specific characters and height. It should be some kind of plate or plaque that you affix permanently to the interior of the vessel. The State Validation Sticker showing proof of paying sales tax may still be displayed on the vessel in accordance with the individual state’s regulations.

vessel marking requirements: Official number marking requirement and Name and hailing port marking requirements.
vessel marking requirements: Official number marking requirement and Name and hailing port marking requirements.

How should the Letters Should Be Written?

The vessel name should be 4 inches at least while the vessel number should be 3 inches high.

Is there a type of Font required to display vessel markings?

There is no requirement for block letters, color, or font for federally documented vessels when it comes to the Vessel Name. As for the USCG number, see above for the requirements.

Where to put numbers on boat

Watch this video to learn more:

How large should the USCG ship official number be?

USCG Official number marking must be 3 inches high. This is important to know when ordering a plate or making your own. It should have “NO.” next to the number.

How to place the USCG documentation board?

Where on a boat are registration numbers placed

Where to order plaques for your USCG O.N.

There are sites link and that offer stainless steel laser engraved plates that you are place on your vessel. Some have used wood or resin. Other people have 3” vinyl letters and used clear epoxy over them in the bilge. Another site that sells Boat Documentation Plaques is Expect to pay around $70 for a custom documentation board.

laser etched stainless documentation placards for USCG vessels
laser etched stainless documentation placards

Some other names for the USCG plate are Coast Guard number plaque, Coast Guard registration plaque, USCG vessel placard, Coast Guard vessel documentation plaque, Coast Guard documentation plaque, USCG documentation number plaque, Coast Guard documentation number plate, USCG numbers plaque, Coast Guard documentation board, uscg documentation placard marine official number placard, vessel id plates, engraved boat number plates

What about display of boat name and hailing port?

The “hailing port” must include a place and a State, or Territory in the United States. The state may be abbreviated such as TX or FL.

Note: There is no requirement for block letters or any other restrictions to type, font, or color for federally documented vessels for the name and port. The name and hailing port of a recreational vessel must be marked together on some visible exterior part of the hull such as the bow or stern.

Many recreational vessels will place the vessel name and hailing port on the stern, and the vessel name on both sides of the bow, which is required for a commercial vessel. Although not required for a recreational vessel, this is something that many will do.

The above requirement for vessel name and hailing port to be visible may necessitate duplicating the name and hailing port on either side of the hull.


We discussed how you need to know three vessel marking requirements. First is the USCG number marking placard, then the vessel name and hailing port marking standards.

If you want to rename your boat check How to Name your Boat the RIGHT way – Rules for naming USCG Documented Vessels. but if you are buying a used vessel soon, we are here to help you obtain an abstract of title.

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