US Coast Guard Boat Registration (Documentation)

I came across a thread on a forum concerning boat registration.  We are preparing for a long voyage in the Caribbean and proper documentation is required to clear customs in all of the countries.  I read that the Bahamas might grant US cruisers an exception since they deal with many US boaters.  What a bummer it would be to get through the Bahamas and into the Dominican Republic to find that you didn’t have the proper paperwork to enter the country!  I certainly didn’t want this to happen to us so I did my research.

The US Coast guard grants documentation on US Vessels for US Citizens.  This process will document the vessel with the US Government and provide the boat owner and crew significant benefits.  One advantage of having a USCG documented boat is that the USCG Document provides a record of liens and owners that stays with the boat. This can often make selling the boat simpler. Also, buying a boat using a Marine Mortgage-type loan often requires the boat be USCG documented. The boat is used as collateral for the loan and the interest on the loan can often be written off in much the same manner as the interest on a home mortgage.

Another good reason for USCG Documenting a boat is if you plan to travel to foreign countries. State registrations are not recognized internationally, where USCG Documented vessels have international recognition. The further you are from the US, the more important being USCG documented becomes.

Being USCG documented also means that the boat is US flagged and provides you with some legal rights and protections a state registered boat would not receive when in foreign waters. Finally, USCG documented vessels are entitled to aid from the US Consulate when in foreign waters, which is not the case with state-registered vessels.

What is a Documented Vessel?

A documented vessel is one that is registered by the Federal Government through the U. S. Coast Guard, rather than titled and numbered by a state. Pleasure vessels of 5 net tons and over (26 feet in length and up) may be documented, and commercial vessels 5 net tons and over must be documented.

What are the Citizenship Requirements?

1. All individual owners must be U. S. Citizens

2. In order for a corporation to qualify as a “citizen of the United States,” it must be incorporated in the U.S.; the president or other chief executive office must be a U.S. citizen, and there may be no more alien directors than minority of the number required for a quorum. There are requirements pertaining to stock ownership, according to the use of the vessel.

3. There are specific requirements for partnerships and other types of ownership

I completed the full process online and it cost me $133.  The process should take 4-6 weeks to complete.  All of the forms are available online and are .pdf fillable.  I had to sign a statement that I wouldn’t allow a non US Citizen to operate the boat in foreign waters.  I look forward to getting my new documentation back in the mail.  One important note is that boats have to be named and the name can’t already be in use federally.  There is a boat search tool on the Cost Guard website that allows you to check name availability.  I was happy that our boat “Miss Lone Star” has never been used.

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

5 thoughts on “US Coast Guard Boat Registration (Documentation)

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