BoatUS is advising boaters to be alert when renewing U.S. Coast Guard documentation (Credit: Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore/BoatUS) Download hi-res photo
SPRINGFIELD, Va., May 5, 2022 – Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is advising boaters with vessels that have a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by U.S. mail offering renewal.
BoatUS advises that while the Coast Guard does send official annual renewal notices by U.S. mail, other notices being received by BoatUS members are not from the Coast Guard but rather third-party companies whose name or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC).
BoatUS members have complained that these letters direct them to websites that may be mistaken for the actual Coast Guard NVDC located in Falling Waters, West Virginia, and appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew Coast Guard documentation.
A 2017 Coast Guard issued a bulletin says in part:
“The NVDC is aware that there are commercial entities that offer to manage the certification/renewal process on behalf of vessel owners for a fee. The Coast Guard does not endorse any of these companies, and the companies do not operate on behalf of the Coast Guard in any way. Any fees charged or agreements offered by such companies are in no way associated with the NVDC certification process. In addition, these companies are not authorized to issue any form of documentation, including travel letters and/or permits that authorize operation of ANY vessel. Customer complaints can be made through the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) website at https://www.ftc.gov/.”
While third-party companies may legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, the Coast Guard’s own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price ranges from $26 for one year up to $130 for a 5-year expiration, which is often much lower than what third-party services may charge.
To renew, go to the Coast Guard National Documentation Center website at https://www.uscg.mil/nvdc and click on “instructions and forms,” then “Certificate of Documentation Application for Renewal.”
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.
Why do boat owners choose to federally document vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard versus the more common practice of state registration? The boat was purchased with a bank loan and the lender required it, or the boat has plans to travel beyond U.S. waters. A Certificate of Documentation is internationally recognized and makes it easier for American vessels to enter and leave foreign ports.
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 https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
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About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS):
Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest advocacy, services and safety group with more than 800,000 dues-paying members. BoatUS is the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill, fighting for their rights. On the water when boats break down or run aground, our 600+ vessel, 300+ location nationwide TowBoatUS® fleet brings our members safely back to the launch ramp, marina or dock, and on the road, we are The Boat Owners Auto Club™ to help ensure a roadside trailer and tow vehicle breakdown won’t slow you down. BoatUS offers GEICO boat insurance policies that give boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. BoatUS Magazine is the largest circulation recreational marine publication in the US with engaging content that speaks to the passion for boat ownership while our 501(c)(3) nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers the nation’s only free online boating safety course and many other programs that keep boaters safe and our waters clean. Visit BoatUS.com.