Frequently Asked Questions

Just like automobile registration, documenting your vessel with the US Coast Guard identifies nationality, establishes indisputable possession and helps regulate vessels of restricted trades. To process your documentation simply proceed to our secured Vessel Documentation page.

Your vessel requires documentation with the US Coast Guard if it is:

  • 5 tons or heavier
  • The wholly owned property of a US Citizen
  • Utilized for fishing matters or coastwise trade activities near any US navigable waters
  • Located within a Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
  • A towboat or a dredge operating in US waters or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

Visit our Vessel Documentation page to see a full list of Documents

Fisheries and Coastwise trade will seek documentation related to commercial purposes. Registry endorsements are necessary for the purpose of foreign trade. Any vessel meant for general purposes outside of commerce such as leisure will register a vessel intended for recreational activity. Though commercial documented vessels may be used for the purposes of recreation, recreational vessels documented for recreational activity may not participate in any commercial activity.

Visit our Vessel Documentation page to see a full list of Documents

All Applications may be completed and processed online using our secure service. Upon completion, forms will be reviewed by a document preparation specialist. Our specialists can help correct simple mistakes and avoid unpleasant delays.

Please visit our Vessel Documentation page for a full list of applications.

You may renew your documents any time before the due date. Please visit our Renewals page.
A Certificate of Documentation is valid for one year from the date of issuance, unless changes are made; with the exception of a change of address. All certificates must be renewed on an annual basis. New options for 3 year and 5 year renewals are also available.

Please visit our Renewals page.

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. Please visit our Abstract of Title page.
After the sale has been finalized, the new owner will have to complete a Transfer/Exchange application form.

Please visit our Transfer/Exchange page.

If there is an outstanding balance due on the vessel, the lender should complete a satisfaction of mortgage. The vessel cannot be removed from documentation with an outstanding balance due. Visit our Transfer/Exchange page for more information.

Failure to submit renewals on time will result in reinstatement fees. Please visit the Reinstatement page for more information.
For a newly built vessel that has not yet been documented, ownership may be easily established with a the CG-1261 form known as a Builder’s Certificate and indicating for whom it was built or transferred to. Additionally a Certificate of Origin form the Manufacture or a state or foreign registrations can demonstrate proof of ownership.
For pre owned vessels an owner must furnish a bill of sale, or evidence of transfer including details from the former owner. In transfers where evidence in a bill of sale is lacking please contact the NVDC for details.

Please visit our Vessel Documentation page.

This is significant particularly for commercial vessels meant for fisheries and coastwise trade, which are required to have been built in the US. This can be obtained using form CG-1261 known as a Builder’s Certification. To be certain regarding this matter, the company responsible for the build of the vessel may furnish records as well. This must be submitted with physical copy of the Builder’s Certification or Facts of Build Letter.
The abbreviation “NO” must precede any numerical identification for the vessel in block-type Arabic font with a minimum requirement of 3 inches high placed in a visible structural location on the interior of the hull. Both hailing port and name will be clearly marked on the exterior portion of the hull for all recreational vessels. Commercial vessels shall carry identification marks on both the port and starboard bow with the name and hailing port indicated at the stern. Details of the hailing port must also include the territory or state within the US.

Please visit our Initial Documentation page.

To alter the hailing port of a vessel; details including owner information, official vessel number, and if the vessel has an outstanding mortgage, must be complete. Permission must also be granted by the mortgagee prior to filing. Please visit our Change of Hailing Port page for more information.
One may validate their citizenship status with the use of an CG-1258 form. For the sake of documentation, partnerships, corporations, or sole proprietors may be considered as citizen in this instance. Additionally, it is required that these entities are registered within the United States and that the the board of directors, chairman, and CEO are US citizens. Non-citizens may represent less than a minority of a quorum for this to be possible as well. Regarding commercial matters such as fisheries and coastwise endorsements, a minimum of 75% company stock must be held by US citizens.
Often a vessel may have multiple owners. To be certain that the correct individual receives mail regarding the vessel, the individual must be selected to be the managing owner.
A preferred mortgage functions as a maritime lien, whereby the mortgagee holds the added protection of coast guard imposed limitations placed upon the vessel to which they have provide financing. Financial institutions prefer individuals who can meet rigorous qualification standards.
No. All vessels must comply with the laws of the State in which they are operated. States require all documented vessels to be registered and to display State decals showing compliance with State requirements, and vessel documentation must be provided to State law enforcement officials upon request.
Please visit our Change of Address form to modify your address in the NVDC database
Please provide the vessel’s official number with your address change request.
You can get a coastwise waiver for small passenger vessel by completing our Small Vessel Waiver form. If you need assistance or have any questions, you can contact a document preparation specialist via email at
All requests for expedited certificate copies will require an additional certified copy fee of $39 per item. Copies will arrive an estimated 2-3 weeks before certificate hard copies.