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Vessel Documentation Overview - Blogs



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National Vessel Documentation Center


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Jan 15, 2024 - The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) is a centralized U.S. Coast Guard facility that is responsible for administering all aspects of vessel documentation. This encompasses both recreational and commercial vessels. The following profile contains information about its organization, services and mission. You will also find a list of important online features available from its website.


In addition to the handling of applications, the NVDC processes transactional recordings related to ownership and encumbrances. These include transfers of ownership, preferred mortgages, lien claims and various supporting instruments. It also provides support for the general public with respect to records access and informational resources.  It processes applications and issues certificates for both recreational and commercial vessels on a nationwide basis. This includes records maintenance which are now stored electronically

The NVDC mission is to facilitate maritime commerce and the availability of financing while protecting economic privileges of United States citizens through the enforcement of regulations, and provides a register of vessels available in time of war or emergency to defend and protect the United States of America.


The National Vessel Documentation Center is managed by United States Coast Guard which is a division of the  U.S. Department of  Homeland Security. The NVDC is headquartered in Martinsburg, West Virginia. In times of national emergencies, the Coast Guard may be transferred to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Public Access

The NVDC office facility, which is open to the public, is located in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Given it's remoteness, however, most transactions are conducted online by telephone, email or regular mail. Facsimile accommodations are no longer available. Information on how to contact the NVDC and instructions for submitting forms and documents can be found in WikiLinks.

Online Resources

The NVDC offers a wealth of online information and services for those interested in documenting a recreational or commercial vessel. This includes  the necessary forms, applications and instructions for obtaining a certificate of documentation along with various ownership, mortgage, an lien recordings. Visit WikiLinks for access to the NVDC website and some important aspects of its offerings.

Database Access

The NVDC does not have an online lookup portal on its website for Vessel documentation records. However, there are other governmental sites that do have such resources along with several industry portals which are available to the public. These can be found in the Database section of BoatWiki. Vessel abstracts of title and copies of recorded instruments must be ordered directly from the documentation center.


Jan 15, 2024 - The National Vessel Documentation Center is very consumer oriented and employs a large staff of well trained documentation officers. Its personnel are quite helpful with the basic processes of documenting a vessel and subsequent recordings. However, the documentation center will not offer guidance in the legal or technical ramifications of vessel ownership methods and operational requirements. Assistance with these matters must be addressed with the respective enforcement agencies, maritime attorneys or other qualified professionals.

Please WikiShare any experiences you may have encountered in working with the NVDC.

Credits and References

Jan 15, 2024 - Page revised.



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