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. However, commercial vessels measuring over Five (5) net tons must be documented. The 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, measurements, 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 documented in order to secure their interest with a Preferred Ship Mortgage.
Why should I retain the services of a vessel documentation service?
The vessel documentation process can sometimes be cumbersome and could interfere with your precious boating time. A vessel documentation service has trained personnel to weave through some of the intricacies of preparation and filing of paperwork. If your vessel is financed, a lender may rely on a vessel documentation service to prepare and file the Mortgage.
Does the vessel’s name need to be unique?
No. You may choose any name for your boat as long as it does not rhyme with “MAYDAY” and is not considered profane.
What is a Hailing Port, and how do I choose one?
A Hailing Port is your choice of city to be marked on the vessel. You can choose any city in 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 below:
What are the requirements for marking a vessel?
On ALL vessels the OFFICIAL NUMBER must be permanently marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three (3) inches in height on some clearly visible interior part of the hull and the number cannot be obliterated or obscured.
On vessels exclusively designated for PLEASURE, the name and hailing port should be marked together in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible exterior part of the hull.
On COMMERCIAL vessels the bow and stern markings must meet the following requirements:
1) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of its port and starboard bows.
— OR —
2) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on clearly visible exterior parts adjacent to the port and starboard bows in order to avoid obliteration.
1) Marked in clearly legible and durable letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of its stern.
— OR —
2) Marked in clearly legible and durable letter not less than four (4) inches in height on a clearly visible 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 a particular state’s taxing authority. In the State of California, a vessel owner can call the State Board of Equalization at 916-445-9524.