The American Vessel Documentation Association

Dona Jenkins

The Mary Conlin Company

PAUL KONAPELSKY

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.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY VESSEL MEASURES FIVE NET TONS?
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 information about how tonnage is determined, including a web-based interactive form that calculates tonnages, visit the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Center’s web site at the Marine Safety Center’s Tonnage Page.
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. If title was transferred by some means other than a bill of sale, contact the your Documentation Service for assistance.

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United States Coast Guard Abstracts of Title