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Vessel Documentation - Forms
Deficiency Letter - Definition
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NVDC Filing - Guidelines



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How to apply for Coast Guard vessel documentation with step by step instructions.

BoatWiki - Guidelines


There are a number of Coast Guard requirements that must be complied with in order to document a vessel. These apply not only to the vessel itself, but its usage and ownership. Before embarking on the application process, you should review these carefully. A wealth of such information can be found in the above WikiTags and  throughout the pages of BoatWiki. Please also keep in mind that rules, regulations, and forms can change without notice.

Step 1 - Completing the Application Form

An Application for Documentation form must be filed with the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) whenever a vessel is placed into documentation. This may be for the first time, upon any changes to an existing documentation (other than an address), or when returning an expired documentation to active status. It will establish the vessel's name, hailing port, endorsements, usage, citizenship status, address, and managing owner's name. Supplemental items may also be required along with the application depending on the type of transaction you wish to accomplish. The Application for Documentation and most common ancillary forms can be found in the above WikiTags. When applying, you can also pay extra for up to a 5year renewal period if the application is for a recreational endorsement. You will need to make note of this on the transmittal cover letter.

Step 2 - Establishing Ownership

The Application for Documentation form can not in itself be used for establishing ownership. It merely gathers the name and address for a managing owner, or contact person, who must coincidentally be one of the actual owners. If you are applying for a first time initial documentation or changing ownership of an existing documentation, it will be necessary to provide acceptable evidence supporting your ownership position. This will typically consist of a builder's certificate, state registration, state title, foreign registration, or assigned certificate of documentation. If these are not currently in your name, they must be connected by instruments of transfer such as bills of sale, transfers of interest, or deeds of gift. These forms can be found in the above WikiTags.

Step 3 - Clearing Liens and Mortgages

The Coast Guard will not allow a transfer of ownership or change in status of a documented vessel if it has an outstanding mortgage recorded on its underlying abstract of title. If you are unsure of this, it would be worthwhile to obtain a copy of the abstract. If the abstract is encumbered by an active mortgage, the mortgagee will need to provide either a Satisfaction of Mortgage or sign a Mortgagee Consent form allowing the transfer or change to take place. You may also wish to address any outstanding notice of claim of lien recordings if shown on the abstract of title. This type of recording will not prevent a change of ownership or status and does not require the claimant's consent. However, it will remain as a cloud on the title until ultimately discharged. In order to do so, the claimant must execute a Release of Lien form or it must be vacated by a court of law.

Step 4 - Additional Submissions

Depending on your circumstances, there are some additional forms that may be required along with the application. These may include a Live-aboard Certification, Affidavit of Name Correction, Waiver of Recordability Request, or Request for Priority Handling . You may also need to submit an Application for Simplified Measurement if the vessel is being initially documented from something other than a builder's certificate or is returning to documentation subsequent to a foreign registration. Vessels over 78' must be formally admeasured by an approved service.

Step 5 - Submitting The Paperwork

Now that you have completed the application and other required forms, it is time to bundle everything up for transmittal to the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC). For this purpose, you should attach a cover sheet with your contact information, a list of your submissions and your method of payment. A fee schedule can be found on the documentation center's website along with a credit card payment form. This can be found on the documentation center's website or you can choose to mail a check. The NVDC will now accept copies of all executed instruments, forms, and other items except for a Builder's Certification. This means that in addition to regular mail or courier, you have the option of sending most items by facsimile or email with no need to follow up by mailing the originals. Further guidelines for electronic filings can be found in the NVDC website.

Step 6 - Monitoring the Progress

 Processing time can be a matter of weeks depending on the documentation center's pending backlog, the type of submissions, and whether any filing deficiencies have occurred. You can take comfort in the fact that a time and date stamp is placed on all of your recordable instruments immediately upon receipt by the documentation center. This ensures their rank and priority on the abstract of title, even though not actually recorded until a later date. In monitoring the progress of your transmittal you should first confirm that your items were actually received. You can do this and also get a sense of the overall time it will take to complete the processing by visiting the status check link in the above WikiTags. You may also contact them by telephone or email at any time if you have any concerns about the status of your application.  Keep in mind that if you receive a filing deficiency notification, everything goes back to the bottom of the queue until resolved.


You have now implemented the necessary steps for documenting or re-documenting a vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard. When your recording has been finalized, the documentation center will mail a new certificate of documentation to the address shown on your application. Please WikiShare your experiences, comments, and suggestions about these guidelines.

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3/5/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.



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