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Massachusetts Boating Requirements


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This summary is designed to inform the boating public about title options, registration requirements, recording methods, record searches, tax rules, and operational guidelines for the State of Massachusetts. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular jurisdiction. Simply click on the above WikiShare link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.

Registration and Titling

Massachusetts issues both registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered through the Massachusetts Environmental Police in Boston. Outboard motors are not titled or registered in Massachusetts. Boat trailers weighing over 3,000 lbs. are registered and titled.

Registration is required in Massachusetts for all motorized boats unless otherwise exempted. USCG documented vessels are not registered. A complete list of exemptions may be found by visiting the MEP website.

Massachusetts has procedures which allow marinas to obtain a title for boats abandoned in their facility.

Ownership transfers of boats registered in Massachusetts must be reported within 15 days.

There are approximately 133,030 boats registered in the State of Massachusetts. This accounts for 1.1% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Boat registration numbers in Massachusetts begin with an "MS" designation which is followed by four numbers and then two letters. These must be displayed on all registered boats along with registration sticker tabs. USCG documented vessels are not subject to state numbering, but must display an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. An official documentation number must also be affixed to a visible interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull.

All vessels manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "MSZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. A boat must be physically inspected by a Massachusetts law enforcement officer if there is a hull number discrepancy.

Recording Methods

Titles are issued on all registered boats over 14' in Massachusetts, except for those which are Coast Guard Documented. Massachusetts does not have provisions for bonded boat titles or conditional boat registrations where sufficient proof of ownership is not available. These situations are handled on a case-by-case basis through the Boat Registration Bureau. Massachusetts has defined procedures for titling abandoned boats.

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Boat Registration Bureau. These will be shown on both the registration and title certificates when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party. Security interests in boats that are neither titled or USCG documented are recorded with the Secretary of State as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. Tax liens may be flagged on boat registration records, recorded as UCC filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk's office. There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against state titled boats. If the vessel is USCG documented, a lender's security interest must be perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center and priority is attained according to the date filed. Other maritime liens can be filed in the same manner although they function as notifications only. All mortgage and lien filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.

Record Searches

Boat registration and title records in Massachusetts are maintained in a database administered by the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP). Information on how to lookup and request boat registration and title information from the MEP can be found in WikiTags.

Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State. If there are any suspected state or federal tax liens against the boat, it may be worthwhile to use a public record vendor as they have a much broader access to such filings.

Ownership, mortgage, and lien search recordings for USCG documented vessels can be obtained by ordering an abstract of title and a copy of the certificate of documentation from the National Vessel Documentation Center. However, these are encoded and can be difficult to interpret, especially on older vessels with numerous recordings. It may be worthwhile to contact a professional vessel title company for assistance in this regard.

Taxes and Insurance

Sales tax is levied on boat transactions in Massachusetts. Visit the Department of Revenue link in WikiTags for further information.

Insurance is not required for boats operating on Massachusetts waters.

Operating and Safety

Individuals must be at least 12 years of age may operate a motorboat, unless supervised by person 18 years of age or older. Personal watercraft (PWC) users must still be at least 16 years of age in order to operate, with no exceptions. Operators who are between 12 and 15 years of age must complete an approved basic boating course in order to operate a motorboat without adult supervision. A boating safety certificate must be in the possession of the certified operator when underway. Personal watercraft users who are 16 or 17 years of age must also complete such a boating course. Persons less than 16 years of age are not allowed to operate personal watercraft.

Accidents involving death or serious injury must be reported within 48 hours. Other accident reports must be submitted within five days. Lost, stolen, abandoned, or destroyed, boats must be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police within 15 days.


The information contained herein is subject to change without notice and may contain errors or omissions. Be sure to check with the respective government agency before taking action on any such data. More detailed information about all of these topics can be found in the above WikiTags.

Credits and References

3/29/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.



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