Requirements to Document a Boat with the US Coast Guard

We explain all the USCG requirements for you to document a boat, vessel requirements, and the required safety equipment to have on the vessel.

US Coast Guard Requirements for Vessels, Documentation, and Boating

Overview US Coast Guard Requirements for Vessels

There is nothing more exciting than having a boat that meets all the USCG Requirements for safely and documentation/titling. Every boat owner and lover would want to be at peace with the law, by ensuring their boats are legally registered with the appropriate authority, properly marked, and follow safety standard set by teh US Coast Guard.

Thus, it is imperative to know the US Coast Guard requirements for boats before heading to sea. In this blog post, we shall be reviewing the necessary details that are required by the US Coast Guard.

let’s begin……

What are the requirements for US Coast Guard Documentation of boats?

Knowing the requirements for US Coast guard documentation is important so you can properly register your vessel.

To begin, the following are the requirements to document a boat with the coast guard in the USA:

  • The owner must prove ownership
  • The owner must be a US Citizen
  • The owner must demonstrate eligibility for the endorsement requested (fishery, recreational, or other).

The above three points are the primary requirements you need to have before you can document your vessel with the United State Coast Guard Vessel documentation. Your vessel will also need to meet some eligibility requirements (see below).

Remember, the vessel must be used for fishing activities or in the coastwise trade on the US waters or in the area of ocean that is; Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Display of Vessel Number – USCG Marking Requirements for boats

The USCG will issue a unique number for your boat. We have discussed the display of the USCG official number of your boat on the vessel in our previous article. There are specific requirements such as the number of inches the numbers need to be on the plate. You can read more about USCG marking requirements for documented vessels in our previous article.

Note that, when a vessel becomes Federally Documented, the State Registration Numbers and Letters must be removed but the sticker can remain to prove that taxes have been paid on the boat under state laws.

Coast Guard Requirements – What is Coast Guard vessel Documentation?

The USCG vessel documentation process is a national form of vessel titling different from state titling. It is the ideal mode of registering the boat with the federal government through the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC). We have covered documenting your boat and explained what is vessel documentation in another article. Knowing the basics would be important in understanding today’s article

Is your Boat Eligible for Coast Guard Documentation? Coast Guard Requirements for a vessel

Are you concerned if your boat is eligible for US Coast Guard documentation? As stated above, for a boat to be eligible for USCG vessel documentation, it must be owned by a US citizen and must be at least five net tons. If your vessel is greater than 27 feet you may be lucky to meet the minimum requirement.

What is the Initial Documentation Fee of a Vessel with the USCG?

Initial documentation of a vessel with the United States Coast Guard can be referred to as the cost of documenting your vessel for the first time you document it. The initial documentation fee for the first year usually costs $133.

Requirement to have Certificate of Documentation on board

The person in command of a documented vessel must have on board that vessel the original Certificate of Documentation.

Coast guard boat requirements and standards for boats

Here we shall be looking at what is required to keep your vessel updated with the National Vessel Documentation Center. Below are some of the requirements you should look out for;

  • Size– The Primary size must be at least 5 tons in volume.
  • Ownership– The boat owners must be U.S citizens either by birth, naturalization, or other derivatives. If it is corporate body-related, there are ways to ascertain citizenship.
  • Operational Endorsement– This type of endorsement explains the kind of activities the vessel is eligible to carry out. These activities are coastwise, recreation, fishery, and more.
  • Mortgage- You also need to have a preferred vessel mortgage. A preferred Mortgage enables you to finance your boat purchase.
  • Build Up– Where your vessel was constructed is another requirement. Proof of construction is required in the United States.

The above requirements are the most important requirements you need for USCG documentation.

Are there Different Types of USCG Documentation?

There are different types of USCG endorsements and they include fishery, coastwise, registry, or recreational. Operational endorsements are notations on a certificate of documentation that indicate the types of activity in which the vessel is allowed to participate.

These are based on certain qualifications which are mostly related to building and citizenship requirements. The most common endorsements include;

  • Recreation
  • Coastwise
  • Fishery
  • Registry

USCG Vessel Registration Requirements – Required Forms

No doubt, there are several forms required to document your vessel with the Coast Guard. some forms must be notarized in the USA before submitting them. Below are some of the forms you could encounter or need to file:

Can a Boat be both Titled and Documented?

Usually, No…. A documented vessel may not be titled by a state at the same time but some states may require documented vessels to maintain their state-level registration. Regardless of registration status, all vessel owners must comply with state laws and pay applicable state taxes. We detailed the differences here for each state in a table. This will show you state vs. national requirements.

Renewing and Transferring ownership of CG Vessels

We have discussed the details of documentation exchange in our other articles. There are some forms to fill out and fees to pay for the renewal or transfer of documentation.

USCG-Required Safety Equipment for Boats

The reality is that each boat must have specific safety equipment including life jackets that meet the coast guard requirements. Below are the basic requirements for recreational vessel safety equipment:

  • Personal Flotation Devices – Either one type 1, 2, 3, or 4 for each individual ad must be USCG approved. The PFDs must be readily available for users.
  • Sound Producing Devices – Here is another minimum requirement. You will need sound-producing devices like one bell and a whistle or horn. This helps you to signal position or intentions.
  • Fire Extinguishers – As a boat owner or user, you must have fire extinguishers enclosed in the fuel area in case of any fire outbreak.
  • Visual Distress Signals on Coaster Waters – You are required to have a visual distress signal during operation at day or night in coaster waters. You can use I orange flag for the day, and I electric S-O-S signal light for night use. It must be at least three days or three-night use.
  • Marine Sanitation Devices – all vessels with installed head facilities must have an operable Coast Guard certified Type I, II, or III MSD.
  • Pollution Regulations – no plaque is required. 5″ x 8″ Oil Discharge placard and 4″ x 9″ Waste Discharge placard. You will need a Waste Management Plan if your vessel is around 40′ or longer.

Other USCG requirements include but are not limited to the following:

  • Backfire Flame Arrestors
  • Ventilation for engines
  • Navigation lights
  • A copy of the Inland Navigation Rules (“Rules of the Road”) must be kept on board

These requirements can change depending on the length of your boat. This article breaks it down in detail here. For example, every vessel 26 feet or larger must display oil and garbage placards.

Vessel Build Requirements

Vessel Build requirements imply a document that clearly states or proves that a vessel was built in the US. The place or location where the vessel is built is not important when it is a recreational boat. On the other hand, you have to give evidence that a vessel was built in the United States when a coastwise or fishery endorsement is being applied for.

Merchant Marine Requirements

You may be wondering why your crew needs to obtain a merchant mariners document. It is for the general good of your boat business. You as a boat owner can ascertain the right person for the job. It also, brings professionalism and security to your business.

The Merchant Mariners document is a major requirement for anyone to work on your vessel. You are required to have the merchant mariners’ document if you desire to work on a boat with more than 100 tonnages.

As you already know, the USCG is responsible for the issuance of all necessary documents that every crew member needs to work on your vessel. Nevertheless, all crew members must be skilled in their specific areas.

The Merchant Mariners document is obtained from the United State Coast Guard. This document defines the role of every crew member, and the skills they possess. All applicants must undergo a thorough criminal background check, physical exam, drug test before they can obtain the certificate.

Final Note- Coast Guard Requirements

It is paramount to ensure all paperwork is carried out correctly and all safety equipment meets the USCG requirements for you and your vessel before navigating in US waters.

As a boat owner of either commercial or recreational vessel, it is important you document your boat with the US Coast Guard and mark the ID according to their requirements.

Over the years, we ( have helped boat owners to get the necessary documentation and extra help they need, to get their vessels running. Don’t be left out, we care and we are here to help you, just by reaching out to us NOW…

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