BoatUS: Check renewal forms for documented vessels

A boat’s federal documentation registration number.
A boat’s federal documentation registration number. contributed

Owners of federally documented boats in the Florida Keys should check renewal notices received by mail, cautions a leading boating organization.

The renewals might not have been sent by the U.S. Coast Guard. And the letter might seek more than the standard renewal fee, according to the Consumer Protection Department of BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States).

“An increasing number of BoatUS members have complained these letters direct them to websites that may be mistaken for the actual U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center in Falling Waters, W.Va.,” a BoatUS alert says. The suspicious notices “appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew U.S. Coast Guard documentation.”

The Coast Guard does send its official annual renewal notices by U.S. mail. “Other notices being received by 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 USCG Vessel Documentation Center,” says the boating group.

Third-party renewal agencies may be operating within the law and provide some services, BoatUS notes, but “the Coast Guard’s own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price, $26, is often much lower than what third-party services may charge.”

Documentation also can be renewed at the actual Coast Guard Documentation Center website, www.uscg.mil/nvdc.

Federal documentation is available for recreational boats with a capacity rate of at least 5 net tons and owned by a U.S. citizen. “Boats about 27 feet in length or longer generally meet the weight requirement,” Boat US says. Commercial boats, including charter boats, 5 net tons and over must be documented.

Florida also requires federally documented vessels in state waters for more than 90 days to have a Florida boat registration.