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. Many lenders require a Preferred Ship Mortgage.
We Are Usually Asked About
WHAT VESSELS MAY BE DOCUMENTED?
A vessel must measure at least five net tons and, with the exception of certain oil spill response vessels, must be wholly owned by a citizen of the U.S.
MUST MY VESSEL BE DOCUMENTED?
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.
WHAT VESSELS ARE EXEMPT?
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.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION?
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.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR DOCUMENTATION?
The basic requirements for documentation are to demonstrate ownership of the vessel, U.S. citizenship, and eligibility for the endorsement sought.
HOW IS VESSEL OWNERSHIP ESTABLISHED?
If the vessel is new and has never been documented, ownership may be established by submission of a Builder’s Certification (Form CG-1261), 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.
MAY I RENEW MY DOCUMENT EARLY?
YES. The early renewal process, established in 1995 as a courtesy to owners unable to respond to renewal notifications during the scheduled expiration month have the option to renew early. Due to automated processing, submissions received more than 60 days prior to expiration will be issued with a new issue/expiration date, changing the vessel’s month of expiration and shortening the validity period of the current document.
Certificates renewed less than 60 days from expiration will maintain the same expiration month.
Application fees are not pro-rated and are non-refundable.
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