M/V Soul Mates
Generic Talk

Federally Documented Vessel

If you’ve been following our journey, then you’re noticing a pattern with me to say that for us to get to this very point has been “YEARS” in the making. Our “dream” conversations began during courtship (2005) and were further fueled by the first boat we owned, a 24′ Yamaha 240SX (M/V Yami from 2010 – 2013), followed by our 35′ Regal Sport Coupe (M/V Silver Lining from 2013 – 2022). Many pieces of the puzzle had to fall into place to include one of us to become a Naturalized US Citizen (2019); a very personal decision and journey only to be embarked at one’s own pace.

Documented Vessel Requirements:

  • Minimum of 25′ (Minimum 5 Net Tons)
  • Owned by USA Citizen(s)

Documented Vessel Benefits:

  • A national federal form of boat registration with the United States Coast Guard vs state level Title.
  • Certificate of Documentation is internationally recognized to enter and leave foreign ports.
  • Ease of the vessel’s financial history.
  • Not required to display state numbers on hull exterior like undocumented vessels. 
  • Offers a clear chain of ownership history.
  • Protected by the United States flag (aka: United States flag vessel).
  • Vessels tend to clear customs quicker.

Considering it is our combined “dream” in the years to come, regardless of our air height and draft limitations, to experience the “Great Loop” and hop the Caribbean Islands. There was no better time than the present to document the vessel during our acquisition.


Documented Vessel Process:

  • Application (Forms vary whether it’s an initial or documentation due to new ownership.)
  • Proof of Ownership (Bill of Sale, State Registration, State Title)

Documented Vessel Costs:

  • $130 Certificate of Documentation (COD) Exchange Application
  • $10 US Coast Guard Decal

Documented Vessel Renewal Options:

  • $26 1 Year (Minimum)
  • $52 2 Years
  • $78 3 Years
  • $104 4 Years
  • $130 5 Years

Good to Know

  • Certificate of Documentation (COD) is issued in accordance with application ranging from 1 – 5 years.
  • Dinghy/tender generally is not documented but rather titled at the state level.
  • Hail port must reflect city and state with a height minimum of 4″ in Arabic, Latin or Roman font.
  • If you are a USA Citizen and plan to operate the vessel in foreign waters, regardless of the size of the vessel, the vessel must be documented by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).
  • It is the Owners responsibility to renew prior to the expiration date shown on the Certificate of Documentation. Mark your calendars between 30 – 45 days prior to expiration that you have received renewal application, otherwise follow-up accordingly.
  • Lenders may require United States Coast Guard (USCG) Documentation to best secure their lien at the federal level.
  • National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) takes 4 – 16 weeks to process US Coast Guard paperwork.
  • Official Number (O/N) number is awarded to the vessel at initial documentation request and remains with the lifetime of the vessel.
  • Only Owner(s) of the vessel may request a change of address (within 10 days).
  • Operating the vessel before it is properly marked is subject to a fine.
  • Original Certificate of Documentation (COD) received by United States Coast Guard (USCG) is required and kept onboard the vessel at all times.
  • Recreational documented vessels must mark the vessel’s name and hail port on the transom (exterior hull).
  • Since 1/1/22 the United States Coast Guard (USCG) National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) has been expanding their online system.
  • United States Coast Guard (USCG) can board any vessel under the U.S. jurisdiction at any time.
  • US Coast Guard Renewal costs $26 annually and recreational vessels can select a validity period, from 1 – 5 years.
  • US Coast Guard decal is applied and received from the state.

Simplifying Terminology

  • Documentation: National titling system for larger boats and sometimes required by lenders.
  • Registration: State requirement for most boats. Federally documented boats are usually exempt.
  • Title: State requirement with the exception of federally documented boats. Dinghy/Tender and trailers usually have their own title. 
  • Use Decal: State requirement for federally documented boats.

If you’re working with a Yacht Broker and use a Marine Title Agency as we did, they may submit your Certificate of Documentation (COD) application on your behalf; know that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) may mail your Certificate of Documentation to the Marine Title Agency vs you, the vessel owner. Remain diligent!

Perhaps the most “nail-biting” moment was after fulfilling all the local state requirements of our purchase and receipt of our “State of Certificate of Title to a Vessel” to only return it to MD DNR for them to destroy it. Since the Coast Guard Documented vessels do not have Titles but hold Certificates of Documentation (COD). I consider it equivalent to the “nail biting moment” if you’ve ever submitted your legal documents for a passport application, it’s that comparable experience of surrendering original legal document in your possession.


What did the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) require for the US Coast Guard decal:

  • B240 Form Completed
  • Return of the State of Certificate of Title to a Vessel
  • Payment ($10 Check)
  • Copy of the United State of America Certificate of Documentation in Issued in Your Name

All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice. Be sure to check with your local state requirements, as they may differ from ours. Check out the United States Coast Guard for more information.

Hi, I’m Janet

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