Beware: Misleading Documentation Offers

Brief reminder that documentation needs to be done annually, and it’s straight forward when visiting the US Coast Guard’s website.

Besides carrying current Coast Guard paperwork aboard, a documented vessel needs to have its documentation number affixed to a clearly visible interior structural part of the hull.Courtesy BoatUS

With the start of a new year, owners of documented boats can expect to receive renewal notices from the US Coast Guard, but many will also get misleading mail containing official looking documentation that carry hefty fees that are well above what is actually charged by the federal government, BoatUS warns.

While the Coast Guard sends out notices by mail, third-party companies in recent years have also sent mailers with return addresses that are similar to the Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center in Falling Waters, West Virginia, and which direct owners to websites that are similarly confusing.

Renewing documentation for most vessels is simple and straightforward, and costs $26 annually (renewal options for up to five years are also available). Forms and online payment services are available at Click on click on “instructions and forms,” then “Certificate of Documentation Application for Renewal,” BoatUS advises.

“To be documented, a vessel must measure at least five net tons and, with the exception of certain oil-spill response vessels, owned by a U.S. citizen. Boats about 27 feet in length or longer generally meet the weight requirement,”.

BoatUS also advises boaters who may have received mail that they believe is misleading or deceptive to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 or through its website