Frequently Asked Questions
What is vessel documentation?
Vessel Documentation is a federal form of vessel registration that is offered only to United States citizens for vessels of five (5) net tons or more. Pleasure vessel owners can choose either state registration or Vessel Documentation. The United States Coast Guard issues a Certificate of Documentation to each qualifying vessel. This instrument provides conclusive evidence of the vessel's nationality, as well as clearly identifying the vessel name, hailing port, and ownership information.
What are the benefits of Vessel Documentation?
Many vessel owners enjoy the ease of clearing various foreign ports when carrying a Certificate of Documentation. In addition, some vessel owners value the privacy of marking the documentation number on the interior of the hull - rather than having a registration number marked on the exterior of the hull. in a financing situation, many lenders prefer that the vessel be Coast Guard documented in order to secure their interest in a Preferred Ship Mortgage.
Why should I retain the services of a vessel documentation service?
The vessel documentation process can sometimes be cumbersome and very time-consuming. A vessel documentation service has trained personnel to weave through some of the intricacies and pitfalls of accurately preparing and filling with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Does the vessel's name need to be unique?
No. You may choose any name for your vessel. As long as it does not rhyme with "MAYDAY" and is not considered profane.
What is a hailing port? How do I choose one?
A Hailing Port is your choice of City and State within the United States as prescribed in the U.S. Dept of Commerce's Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 55DC. You must display it on the outside of your vessel in compliance with the prescribed instructions listed below.
What are the requirements for marking a vessel?
On ALL vessels the Official Number must be permanently marked in block-type Arabic numerals no less than three (3) inches in height. This must be on a clearly visible and unobstructed interior part of the hull.
On vessels exclusively designated for PLEASURE, the name and hailing port should be marked together in clearly legible and durable letters - no less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible and unobstructed exterior of the hull.
On COMMERCIAL Vessels the bow and stern markings must meet the following requirements:
Bow Markings (two options) -
1) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible and unobstructed part of the port and starboard bows.
2) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible and unobstructed part adjacent to the port and starboard bows in order to avoid obliteration.
Stern markings (two options) -
1) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible and unobstructed part of the stern.
2) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible and unobstructed part adjacent to the stern in order to avoid obliteration.
Is a documented vessel exempt from paying state sales tax?
In some cases, a vessel owner may be exempt from the payment of state sales tax. A vessel owner should seek the advice of an accountant or contact particular states taxing authority. For the state of California, a vessel owner can contact the Department of Tax and Fee Administration:
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Within the US: 1.800.400.7115
Inquiries outside the US: 1.916.445.6362