Frequently Asked Questions


Vessel documentation is a national form of registration. It is one of the oldest functions of Government, dating back to the 11th Act of the First Congress. Documentation provides conclusive evidence of nationality for international purposes, provides for unhindered commerce between the states, and admits vessels to certain restricted trades, such as coastwise trade and the fisheries. Since 1920, vessel financing has been enhanced through the availability of preferred mortgages on documented vessels.

For more information, please call: 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


A vessel that measures at least five net tons and, with the exception of certain oil spill response vessels, that is wholly owned by a citizen of the U.S.

Vessels of five net tons or more used in fishing activities on navigable waters of the U.S. or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or used in coastwise trade must be documented unless the vessel is exempt from documentation. Coastwise trade is generally defined as the transportation of merchandise or passengers between points in the U.S. or the EEZ. In addition, towboats operating between points in the U.S. or the EEZ or between the EEZ and points in the U.S. and dredges operating in the U.S. or the EEZ must be documented.

Net tonnage is a measure of a vessel’s volume. It should not be confused with the vessel’s weight, which may also be expressed in tons. Most vessels more than 25 feet in length will measure five net tons or more.

For more information about how tonnage is determined, please call: 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the U.S. or in the fisheries in the EEZ, are exempt from the requirement to be documented. Also exempt are Coastwise qualified, non-self-propelled vessels used in coastwise trade within a harbor, on the rivers or lakes (except the Great Lakes) of the U.S. or the internal waters or canal of any state.

Yes. A Certificate of Documentation may be endorsed for fishery, coastwise, registry, or recreation. Any documented vessel may be used for recreational purposes, regardless of its endorsement, but a vessel documented with a recreational endorsement only may not be used for any other purpose. Registry endorsements are generally used for foreign trade.

The basic requirements for documentation are to demonstrate ownership of the vessel, U.S. citizenship, and eligibility for the endorsement sought.

If the vessel is new and has never been documented, ownership may be established by submission of a Builder’s Certification, naming the applicant for documentation as the person for whom the vessel was built or to whom the vessel was first transferred. Also acceptable are a transfer on a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, a copy of the State Registration or Title, or foreign registration showing that the applicant owns the vessel.

In the case of a previously owned vessel, the applicant must present bills of sale, or other evidence showing transfer of the vessel from the person who last documented, titled, or registered the vessel, or to whom the vessel was transferred on a Builder’s Certification or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin. If title was transferred by some means other than a bill of sale, contact one of our documentation processors at 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


Citizenship is established by verifying the applicant’s social security. In addition to individuals, corporations, partnerships, and other entities capable of holding legal title may be deemed citizens for documentation purposes. Corporations must be registered in a state or the U.S; the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors must be U.S. citizens, and no more than a minority of the number of directors necessary to constitute a quorum may be non-citizens. In addition, at least 75% of the stock must be vested in U.S. citizens for a coastwise or fisheries endorsement.

Evidence that a vessel was built in the U.S. is required for a vessel which is to be used in the fisheries or coastwise trade. Build evidence is normally established by submitting a Builder’s Certification. That form must be completed by the person who constructed or oversaw the construction of the vessel or an official of the company that built the vessel who has examined the records of the company to determine the facts of build. The Original Builder’s Certification or Facts of Build Letter must be presented with your submission. A copy will NOT be accepted.

Documented vessels do not display their official numbers on the outside of the hull, but are identified by the name and hailing port. The application for documentation must include a name for the vessel composed of letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals and may not exceed 33 characters. The name may not be identical, actually or phonetically, to any word or words used to solicit assistance at sea; may not contain or be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to racial or ethnic epithets. Once established, a vessel’s name may not be changed without application, fees, and the consent of the Director, National Vessel Documentation Center. There is no rule against duplication of names for documented vessels, so hailing ports are helpful in identifying vessels.

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 clearly 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.

The name and hailing port of a recreational vessel must be marked together on some clearly visible exterior part of the hull. The vessel name of a commercial vessel must also be marked on the port and starboard bow and the vessel name and the hailing port must also be marked on the stern. All markings may be made by any means and materials that result in durable markings and must be at least four inches in height, made in clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals. The hailing port must include both a place and a State, Territory, or possession of in the United States. The state may be abbreviated.


You may change the name and/or hailing port by navigating to the following page and completing the online form: Change of Vessel Name/Haling Port

If you require assistance with your online application, you may contact a documentation processor to walk you through the process at 1-800-535-8570. For additional information or inquiries, email info@maritimedocumentation.us


Many vessels have more than one owner. To make sure that the right person gets mail concerning the vessel, one must be designated as the managing owner.

A preferred mortgage is a mortgage which is given status as a maritime lien. As such it enjoys a certain priority in the event of default. In addition, the Coast Guard is prohibited from making certain changes in documentation including, but not limited to, change of vessel ownership, name, and hailing port without consent of the mortgagee. For this reason many financial institutions require vessels which are eligible for documentation to be documented and to have preferred mortgages recorded against them.

All forms are conveniently available to complete online through this secure website. After completing a form, the form will automatically be forwarded to a Documentation Processor for review. On average, most people that attempt to submit their own documents yield deficiencies which cause their documentation process to be delayed by week or even months, and are subject to resubmitting their fees. The online portal provided on this websites helps speed up the documentation process and eliminate deficiencies. Call 1-800-535-8570 if you would like for a documentation processors to walk you through your application process. You may email info@maritimedocumentation.us for additional information or inquiries.

No, your application may be submitted and paid for by filling out your desired application through the convenient online portal. The online portal is far more advantageous as it is not subject to delays caused by submitting your application(s) in by mail. Online applications submitted through this website are also promptly reviewed to ensure faster processing. You may also contact a documentation processor at 1-800-535-8570 if you require assistance with your application. For additional information or inquries, email info@maritimedocumentation.us

You may obtain an Abstract of Title which will show all bills of sale, mortgages, and notices of claim of lien filed and recorded by the Coast Guard. You may request an Abstract by navigating to the following page: Abstract of Title

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-535-8570 or email info@maritimedocumentation.us


No, all documented vessels must comply with the laws of the state in which they are operated. The vessel’s document must be shown to state law enforcement personnel upon their demand. States may require documented vessels to be registered (but not numbered) and to display state decals showing that they have complied with state requirements.

Documentation of your vessel does not cover the vessel’s tender or dinghy. These craft fall within the jurisdiction of the motorboat numbering laws of the state of principal use. Please contact your state agency that handles the registration or numbering of motorboats for further information

When the sale is finalized, you may complete a Bill of Sale. The new owner will have to complete a Transfer application, which can be completed by navigating to the following link: Transfer/Exchange

If there is an outstanding mortgage, the mortgagee (lender) should complete a Satisfaction of Mortgage. The vessel cannot be removed from documentation with an outstanding mortgage. You may complete a Satisfaction of Mortgage by navigation to the following link: Satisfaction/Release of Mortgage/Lien


A Certificate of Documentation is valid for one year from the date of issue, providing there are no changes other than a change of owner’s address. The Certificate must be renewed on an annual basis. You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following page: Renewal

Note that you now have the option to have your documentation renewed automatically for a period of up to 5 consecutive years. Selecting to pay for your Renewals in advance provides you with peace of mind and eliminates the stress of having to renew your documentation every year. If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-535-8570 or email info@maritimedocumentation.us


No, a lost certificate of documentation must be replaced by completing an application for Replacement, which can be completed by navigating to the following page: Replacement (COD)

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


No, simply fill out our online Renewal form conveniently available through this secure website. You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following page: Renewal

Yes, you may submit a Renewal application early. You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following link: Renewal

Please note: renewing your current Certificate of Documentation (COD) before its expiration month, will produce the issuance of a new certificate of documentation with a 1 year validity, and in turn will cause the current certificate of documentation to become invalid (shortening it’s 1 year validity) as the newly issued certificate of documentation supersedes the current COD.

Failure to submit your Renewal of documentation before the expiration date will require for you to Reinstate your documentation. You may submit your Reinstatement application by navigating to the following link: Reinstatement

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processor at 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


You may submit your change of address by filling out our online Change of Address form conveniently available through this secure website or at the time of renewal of your Certificate of Documentation you can annotate the new address in the renewal application.

You may submit your Change of Address application by navigating to the following page: Change of Address

You may submit your Renewal application by navigating to the following link: Renewal


You may request priority handling by selecting the “Priority Request/Rush Processing” option under the “PLEASE SELECT ANY ADDITIONAL SERVICES YOU WISH TO HAVE PROCESSED” section before checking out.

You may get a coastwise waiver by navigating to the following page: Marad Small Vessel Waiver

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, you may contact a documentation processors at 1-800-535-8570 or email: info@maritimedocumentation.us


Requests for faxing of Certificates of Documentation, Letters of Deletion, Certificates of Ownership and recorded instruments such as Preferred Mortgages, Bills of Sale, Notices of Claim of Lien, and Satisfactions of Mortgage in combination to mailing will require an additional Certified Copy fee of $34.00 for each item.