Certificate of Documentation

When Do You Get a Certificate of Documentation?

You are probably already aware of the importance of USCG documentation for vessels that exceed 5 net weight tons: if they are used for commercial purposes, they need to get this type of registration. If their main use, on the other hand, is recreational, they have the option of getting this national form of licensing. This is on top of the vessel’s obligations with their state requirements. Anyhow, whenever you register your vessel with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), you will receive a certificate of documentation. Find out everything you need to know about that certificate in this article the Maritime Documentation Center wrote to help you out.

When Will you Need a Certificate of Documentation?

Like we said, by this time, if you found yourself here, googling about the certificate of documentation that is because you already know how important it is. In fact, it is so crucial that you must have it on the vessel at all times. But what happens if it gets wet? What happens if you lose it? What happens if its expiry date arrives? Or even worse, you notice that you are already over a month past the expiration date? There is a simple explanation for all of these questions, and we will go through all of them in this article.

Coast Guard documentation is mandatory for those vessels wishing to operate commercially. This type of licensing lasts for one year for commercial vessels and, from 2022, it is compulsory to get it for five years for recreational boats. Here’s a list of some of the most common types of documentation you can get when completing the form CG-1258.


The first time you get this type of documentation the form is called “Initial”. You can only apply if you have never been documented with the USCG before, your vessel measures at least five net tons and it is fully owned by US Citizens.


You use this form whenever you want to renew your certificate of documentation. If you do it two months or more in advance of your certificate expiry the date will change. If you do it 30 days after the date you will have to pay a late fee. After those 30 days, you will need to reinstate your certificate instead. The best time to renew your documentation, as you can imagine, is during the two months prior to your expiry date.


As we said if you are 30 days past the expiry date you will need this form to return the vessel to active status. This form disallows any changes you want to make on the COD, other than an address change of the managing owner.

Certified Copy

This form exists in case you need an exact copy of the document in your possession.


If you lost or mutilated the original certificate of documentation you can use this form to get a new one.


If for any reason you need to erase your USCG Documentation from the registry, you can do so with this form

Change of Address, Vessel Name, or Hailing Port

It is your responsibility to keep your certificate of documentation up to date. For that reason, if there is any change in your situation during the period in which your license is valid, you need to inform the USCG of the update.

Certificate of Documentation

We Let you Process your Forms Online

As we said at the beginning, whether you are looking for your certificate of documentation or any other type of boating paperwork, all of them are easily accessible to you at the Maritime Documentation Center. We are a third-party agency that processes this type of documentation for you. By doing so, we allow you to submit your forms online while your details are kept confidential (our site is SSL-encrypted) and to have someone from our experienced staff overlooking your forms so no mistakes are made. Contact us today for more information!