benefits of documenting a vessel

The Benefits of Documenting a Vessel

The benefits of documenting a vessel are many, although it may seem like an arduous task. It can be simplified with the help of vessel documentation services. If you are a new owner of a boat, you may be wondering if you have to document your vessel with the federal government. But first, read on to find out if you absolutely must document your new boat.

What are the Benefits of Documenting a Vessel?

Vessel documentation is a national form of registration, which means that you are registering your vessel with the federal government. Documentation provides evidence of nationality for your vessel, used mainly for international purposes. Vessel documentation simpli?es commerce between states and admits vessels to certain restricted trades, such as ?sheries and coastwise trade.

Although vessel documentation started as a way for the federal government to manage commercial shipping and collect taxes, the U.S. Coast Guard is currently in charge of vessel documentation.

benefits of documenting a vessel

Which vessels must be documented?

If your boat measures at least ?ve net tons and is used in ?shing activities on U.S. waters or in the Exclusive Economic Zone, it must be documented. Vessels used for coastwise trade, which includes transportation merchandise or passengers between ports in the U.S. or the Exclusive Economic Zone, must also be documented.

Keep in mind that in order to be documented, the vessel must be wholly owned by a U.S. citizen. How do I ?nd out my vessel’s net tonnage? Contrary to what you might initially think, net cottage does not refer to the vessel’s weight, but to the vessel’s volume. If your vessel is more than 25 feet in length, it is safe to assume that the vessel’s net tonnage is greater than ?ve tons.

Are any vessels exempt from documentation?

Any vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the U.S. are exempt from documentation. Navigable waters refer to any inland body of water, such as a river, canal, or lake that is deep, wide, and slow enough for a vessel to pass through it.

Navigable waters are or may be used to transport interstate or foreign commerce while the waterway is in its ordinary condition. Furthermore, vessels that are non-self-propelled and used in coastwise trade within a harbor on a river or lake (excluding the Great Lakes) are exempt from documentation.

If you have any questions about documenting a vessel, please contact Maritime Documentation Center at (800) 535-8570, or email us at