Licensing, Numbering, and Registration of Boats

Boats must be registered with a licensing authority.  Some vessels are required to be documented with the U.S. Coast Guard National Documentation Center, depending upon the size and use of theboat.  The documentation is required if the vessel is more than 5 net tons and engages in fishing or coast-wide trade.  However, in recreational boating cases, the Coast Guard only requires “vessels equipped with propulsion machinery to be registered in the state of principal use.”

In order to comply with the Coast Guard regulations, a boat must be registered with the state’s licensing division.  Thereafter, a certificate of number will be released.  The numbers must be displayed on the boat in a specific manner.  The owner/operator must carry the valid certificate of number whenever the vessel is in use.  Numbers must be legibly painted or permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel.  The state validation stickers must be affixed within six inches of the registration number.  No other letters or numbers may be displayed nearby with the exception of the vessel fee decal.  Lettering must be in plain vertical block characters of not less than 3 inches in height.  Spaces or hyphens between letter and number groupings must be equal to the width of a letter other than “I” or a number other than “1”.

The owner of a vessel must notify the agency which issued the certificate of number within 15 days if the vessel is transferred, destroyed, abandoned, lost, stolen and recovered or not, or if the certificate of number is lost, destroyed, or the owner’s address changes.


Inside Licensing, Numbering, and Registration of Boats