Vessel Documentation

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Boat registration and vessel documentation resources for everything from ski-boats to mega-yachts.

 Vessel Documentation & Boat Regstration Glossary

          Our glossary contains a brief description of the terms most commonly used in our web site and within the marine industry. The information provided is intended to be general in nature and may be subject to various interpretations depending on the application or setting in which invoked. The terms may also acquire different meanings when applied to other industries.

Abstract of Title:   An indexed ledger, maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, that contains a history of all ownership and lien transactions from the time a vessel is initially documented. - A chronological series of documents that have been derived from a state's microfiche records reflecting all state titling transactions.

Admeasurement:   The Process of factoring a vessel's dimensions in order to determine its tonnage. Determines whether the vessel is large enough to qualify for documentation. See "Certificate of Admeasurement".

Admiralty Law:     The body of laws governing maritime activities. Administered under the jurisdiction of Federal District Courts.  Also known as "Maritime Law".

Affidavit of Lost Title:    A form the legal owner executes to certify that a title certificate has been lost. May also serve as a release of interest. Standard form with most state titling agencies.

Affidavit of Repossession:     A certificate the legal owner or mortgagee executes to certify that a repossession has taken place.  Required by most governmental titling agencies as evidence that a vessel has been foreclosed upon. Requirements for the contents and citations may vary depending on the titling jurisdiction.

American Vessel Documentation Association:    A professional trade association consisting of privately owned companies throughout the country that provide vessel documentation services. Also referred to as "AVDA".

Attorney in Fact:     See "Power of Attorney"

Authorization for Payoff:     A written directive from the borrower to the lien holder that authorizes a third party payer to submit loan pay-off funds on the borrower's behalf.  Usually directs the lien holder to forward all lien releases or title documents to the third party  payer.

AVDA:     See "American Vessel Documentation Association



Bareboat Charter:     A rental or lease arrangement wherein the lessee operates the vessel independent of its owner. Generally not considered as commercial usage by the Coast Guard when operated exclusively for pleasure cruising.

Barge:     A vessel that has no self-propulsion and is towed or propelled by another vessel.  May be used for either commercial or residential purposes. See "Houseboat"

Bill of Lading:     The receipt a carrier gives to a shipper for transported goods. Evidences the contract between the shipper and the carrier. Can also serve as an interim document of title among the shipper, carrier, and recipient.

Bill of Sale:     A form the seller executes to evidence transfer of ownership to the buyer. Identifies the vessel,  usually contains title warranty language, and states the consideration paid. Requirements for content and citations may vary among various governmental titling agencies.

Blue Book:     The term applied to Canadian and British certificates of vessel registry. This term is derived from the blue hard cover that encases the registry certificate.

Boat:     See "Vessel".

BUC Guide:      A publication used throughout the industry that contains values for used vessels. Also contains vessel specifications and information about manufacturers.

Builders Certificate:     A certificate issued by a vessel manufacture that serves as the initial title document.  Identifies the first owner and contains the vessel's specifications. Also known as "Certificate of Build" or "Builder's Certification". This certificate meets Coast Guard requirements for initial documentation. Supersedes the former term known as "Master Carpenters Certificate".



Certificate of Admeasurement:     A form required by the Coast Guard for vessel documentation that established a  vessel's tonnage. See "Admeasurement".

Certificate of Documentation:     A certificate issued by the Coast Guard which serves as evidence that a vessel is documented.  Provides internationally recognized proof of ownership. Shows all trade endorsements. Must accompany the vessel at all times.

Certificate of Ownership:     A certificate issued by the Coast Guard that identifies the current owner of record and all outstanding recorded liens.  Does not show a complete history of all recording transactions. See "Abstract of Title".

Class"A" Title:     A state title certificate that cites the registered owner and usually states any secured lien-holders or "legal owners".

Class"B" Title:     A state title certificate that cites the registered owner, but does not usually identify secured lien-holders.  Serves as a transitional title pending issuance of a "Class A Title". Used mostly in states that are converting from a "registration only system" to a title system".

Closing:      The process in which the buyer exchanges considerations with the seller for ownership of a vessel. The final action in a sales transaction.

Closing Agent:     The third party appointed by a buyer and seller to administer a closing.  Usually a yacht broker, title company, attorney, or marine lender.

Closing Date:     The date a buyer and seller have agreed upon as the final time by which the sale must be closed. The date a vessel sales transaction was consummated.

Closing Exception:     An authorization from the seller or buyer that allows the closing agent to proceed with a closing regardless of certain deficiencies.

Closing Statement:     A form that lists all the financial details of a closing transaction. Prepared by the closing agent prior to or at the time of closing.

Coastwise Endorsement:      A qualification that allows a documented vessel to engage in the transportation of passengers or freight between U.S. ports. Must be shown on the "Certificate of Documentation".

Co-brokerage Arrangement:     An arrangement wherein a listing broker and selling broker cooperate in selling a vessel. Usually entails a pre-arranged commission split.

Commercial Vessel:     A vessel that engages in activities such as carrying passengers, transporting cargo, and commercial fishing operations. Coast Guard documentation with the proper endorsements is required for these activities.



Deed of Gift:     An instrument that conveys interest in a vessel where there is no dollar consideration given. The consideration is often stated as "gifted" or "for love and affection".

Dinghy:     A small auxiliary vessel used as ship to shore transportation for a larger vessel. Usually carried or towed by the mother vessel. Term often confused with "Tender".

Document Number:     A unique number issued by the Coast Guard for every documented vessel. Must be permanently affixed to the inside of the vessel's hull.  Also commonly known as an "Official Number".

Documentation:     A term used to collectively describe the U.S. Coast Guard vessel documentation system and application process.

Documentation Company:     A private business that prepares documentation forms and provides assistance regarding all aspects of vessel documentation.

Documented:     A vessel is said to be "documented" when it carries on board, a current and valid "Certificate of Documentation".



Encumbrance:     A lien or claim against a vessel that is usually of a contractual nature.

Excise Tax:     A yearly assessment for the privilege of operating a vessel on a particular state's waters. Usually paid at time of initial or yearly state vessel registration. Often confused with "Sales Tax" or "Use Tax".

Exclusive Listing:     A listing arrangement wherein the owner grants exclusive selling rights to a broker or dealer.

Extra-Judicial Foreclosure:     See "Non-Judicial Foreclosure"



Factory Hull Number:      See "Hull Identification Number".

Fisheries Endorsement:     A qualification shown on a "Certificate of Documentation" allowing a documented vessel to engage in commercial fishing activities.

Fleet Mortgage:     A preferred mortgage that grants a security interest in multiple vessels to the mortgagee as collateral for a single loan. Allows for a separate vessel discharge without affecting others covered by the mortgage.

Floating Home:     A residential structure which is constructed on a platform supported by flotation devices. May be titled as a vessel or designated as a fixture to the wetlands property on which it is moored.

Foreclosure:      The overall process of liquidating the collateral or vessel secured by a marine loan upon default of the terms.  Includes the process of physical repossession.

Foreign Registry:     A foreign government's federal vessel registration system. Similar to Coast Guard documentation.



Hailing Port:     A city and state designation that must be marked on every documented vessel. Term often confused with "Home Port".

Haul Out:     The process of removing a vessel from the water for repairs or a survey inspection. Usually ordered to facilitate an external hull inspection by a marine surveyor. Required on larger vessels by most marine lenders.

Home Port:      A designation previously required by the U.S. Coast Guard to designate the office in which the vessel records were kept.

House Barge:     A living structure situated on a rectangular hull which is not self-propelled.

Houseboat:     self-propelled cruising vessel with a rectangular superstructure situated on a displacement hull.

HIN:     See "Hull Identification Number".

Hull Identification Number:     A unique number assigned to each vessel by its manufacturer. It contains encoded information about vessel's length, build date, etc. Usually embossed into the vessel's stern.  Also known as "Factory Hull Number".

Hypothecation Agreement:      An agreement that pledges a vessel as security for a loan without turning over actual possession.  Usually executed by a vessel owner who is not an actual party to the loan transaction.



Import Broker:     A private business that specializes in providing assistance for importing and exporting vessels.

IMO Number:   Ship identification number scheme for the International Maritime Organization.

In Rem:     A legal term indicating that the claim or action is against the vessel itself instead of the owner as an individual. Under Admiralty Law, certain claims against a vessel are considered to be "in rem" and will follow the vessel regardless of changes in ownership.



Joint Tenants:     A type of vessel ownership by two or more parties having an undivided interest and equal right to usage. Also commonly referred to as "joint tenants with right of survivorship".

Legal Owner:     A party listed on a state title that has a perfected security interest in the vessel. Same as "Registered Owner" when there are no perfected security interests in the vessel.

Licensing Sub-agency:     A private business chartered by a state to conduct titling and registration activities on the state's behalf.

Lien:     Any claim or encumbrance against a vessel. See "Encumbrance", "Maritime Lien", and "Perfected Interest".

Limited Liability Company:     A relatively new form of business ownership that has the characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership. Also known as an "LLC"

Listing Agreement:     A contract between a seller and a broker giving the broker either exclusive or non-exclusive rights to advertise and represent the vessel for sale. The seller usually agrees to pay the broker a commission upon the sale of the vessel.

Listing Brokerage:      A brokerage firm that holds the listing agreement with the seller.

LLC:     See "Limited Liability Company".



Manufacturer's Statement of Origin:      A certificate issued by a vessel manufacturer that is viewed by a state as the initial title document. Contains vessel specifications, build date, and identification numbers.  Also identifies the first owner. Commonly known as an "MSO".

Maritime Law:     See "Admiralty Law".

Maritime Lien:     With reference to vessels, the term connotes the right to have a debt or obligation satisfied out of the vessel itself.

Markings:      A vessel's name and hailing port as marked on the exterior of the vessel.  Required on documented vessels.

Marshal's Bill of Sale:      A bill of sale issued by a federal marshal for a vessel sold at a marshal's auction. Issued pursuant a federal court order authorizing such action.

Master Carpenter's Certificate:     An obsolete initial title document that has been replaced by the "Builders Certificate".

Mortgage Amendment:     A supplementary agreement that changes the terms of a previous mortgage. Must meet certain requirements to qualify for Coast Guard recordation.

Mortgage Assignment:      A supplementary agreement that assigns a previous mortgage to a different mortgagee. Must meet certain requirements to qualify for Coast Guard recordation.

Mortgagee:     The party to whom a preferred vessel mortgage is granted. Usually a marine lending institution.

Mortgagee Consent:      A written consent from a mortgagee that is required by the Coast Guard to make a change in the vessel's documentation status.

Mortgagor:      A vessel owner who grants a mortgage to a lender for the purpose of perfecting the vessel as collateral.

Motor Yacht:     The term usually applied to larger mechanically powered non-trailerable vessels. A mechanically powered luxury vessel.

MSO:     See "Manufacturer's Statement of Origin".



NADA Guide:     A periodic publication that lists vessel values and specifications. Also identifies various manufacturers.

National Vessel Documentation Center:     The Coast Guard facility that administers all matters pertaining to vessel documentation.

Non-exclusive Listing:     A listing agreement with a yacht broker that allows the seller or another brokerage to also concurrently market and sell the vessel.

Non-judicial Foreclosure:     The process of foreclosing upon a vessel without court action.  Also known as "Summary Foreclosure" or "Extra-judicial Foreclosure".

Notice of Claim of Lien:    A written claim that is unilaterally filed by the claimant against a documented vessel.

NVDC:    See "National Vessel Documentation Center".

Official Number:      See "Document Number".

Offer to Purchase:    See "Purchase Offer".



Paperless Title:     A state title that is maintained on state computer records only.  Normally issued only when there is a legal owner.

Pay-off Demand:      A  statement provided by a lien-holder that indicates the amount required to retire a loan.  Usually cites a "per diem" interest amount and a destination address for the pay-off.

Perfected Interest:      A security interest in a vessel that has been properly recorded with the appropriate governmental recording agency.  Loan is said to be "perfected".

Personal Property Register:      The Canadian equivalent of a Uniform Commercial Code filing.

Personal Property Tax:     A state or county tax that is periodically levied against a vessel. Usually based on the vessel's value.

Pleasure Vessel:     A  vessel that is used solely for pleasure purposes with no commercial activity. Also known as a "Recreational Vessel".

Pocket Listing:      An informal or verbal agreement where a seller agrees to pay a commission to a broker for finding a purchaser for the vessel. Similar to a "non-exclusive listing".

Power of Attorney:     A written instrument that appoints an agent or "Attorney In Fact" to perform designated functions on behalf of the principal.  May be general or specific in nature.

PPR:    See "Personal Property Register".

Preferred Vessel Mortgage:     An instrument that grants a priority security interest in a documented vessel. Must be duly recorded with the U.S. Coast Guard in order to gain preferred status. Optimal method for perfecting a security interest in a vessel.

Provincial Licensing:      A simplified form of vessel registration issued by a state or province in a foreign country.  Although normally not an actual title document, often viewed as proof of ownership.

Purchase Agreement:      An agreement between a buyer and seller that states the terms and conditions under which a vessel sale is to be transacted. A "Purchase Offer" that has been accepted by the seller. Also known as a "Sales Agreement".

Purchase Offer:     An instrument containing the terms and conditions of an offer to purchase that is presented to a vessel seller. Defines the amount of the offer, a deadline for acceptance, any contingencies, and the terms for closing. Often becomes a "Purchase Agreement" upon acceptance by the seller.



Recording Confirmation:     A statement indicating that a preferred mortgage or other recorded instrument has been correctly posted by the appropriate governmental agency. Usually issued by a title or documentation company.

Recreational Endorsement:     A certification on a vessel's "Certificate of Documentation" indicating the vessel may be operated for pleasure usage.

Recreational Vessel:     See "Pleasure Vessel".

Registered Owner:     The party listed on a state title that is entitled to possession of the vessel. Same as "Legal Owner" when there are no perfected security interests against the vessel.

Registration:     See "State Registration".

Registry:     The term commonly applied to foreign vessel registration systems. See "Foreign Registry".

Registry Endorsement:     A qualification shown on a certificate of documentation that allows the vessel to carry passengers or freight between U.S. and foreign ports.

Release of Interest:     A form executed by an owner, lender, or any other party having an interest in a vessel. Releases all claims against the vessel by the executing party.  Standard form used by various states.

Repossession:     The physical act of arresting or recovering a vessel that is subject to a loan foreclosure. Term is often confused with "Foreclosure".

Reserve:    Funds held in trust by the closing agent to cover certain contingencies after the closing has occurred.

Runabout:    A term generally applied to smaller vessels which are carried on a trailer.



Sailboat:    A vessel that uses a sail or sails as its primary propulsion.

Sales Agreement:     See "Purchase Agreement".

Sales Tax:      A state tax that is levied on the retail sale of a vessel.  Usually collected by a broker or dealer. Often confused with "Use Tax".

SAMS:    An acronym for Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors. A nationwide organization of professional marine surveyors.

Satisfaction of Mortgage:      A form used to release a mortgage recorded against a documented vessel. Must meet Coast Guard requirements for recording.

Selling Broker:     The brokerage company that administers the sale of a listed vessel. Usually represents the buyer in a co-brokerage arrangement.

Ship:    Term commonly applied to a large commercial vessel that is used for shipping goods or carrying passengers.

Ships Mortgage:    See Preferred Vessel Mortgage

Ships Mortgage Act:      Federal legislation enacted in 1920 allowing marine lenders to obtain a preferred security interest in Coast Guard documented vessels.  Applies to both pleasure and commercial vessels that are documented.

Six-pack:    A commercial activity in which a vessel carries six or less passengers for hire. Usually pertains to a sport fishing activity.

Skippered Charter:      A charter arrangement were the vessel is operated or "skippered" by the owner.

State License:     See "State Registration Certificate".

State Registration:    A certificate that is issued annually by a state upon receipt of taxes and fees. Usually accompanied by colored "Stickers" or "Tabs"

State Registration Decals:     Colored decals issued by a state upon payment of a yearly registration fee. Usually accompanied by a "State Registration Certificate". Must be displayed on the vessel whenever underway. Also known as "Tabs" or "Stickers".

State Registration Fees:     The collective taxes and fees required to renew or initially place a boat into state registration.

State Registration Number:     A unique number assigned by a state for every registered boat. Each state has a unique registration number prefix. Must be affixed to all non-documented vessels.

State Stickers:     See "State Registration Tabs"

Subordination Agreement:     An agreement where the mortgagee allows another lender's mortgage to acquire priority, even though subsequently recorded. Must meet Coast Guard requirements for recording.

Summary Foreclosure:    See "Non-Judicial Foreclosure".

Survey:    An inspection performed by a marine surveyor that describes the condition of a vessel and defines its value.  May be performed either in the water or during a vessel haul-out.



Tabs:      See "State Registration Decals"

Tax Lien:     A claim or encumbrance against a vessel for the unpaid tax obligations of the owner.

Tenants By The Entirety:     A type of ownership dependant on marital status. Usually the same as joint tenancy while the marriage remains in force. Upon severance of the marriage, ownership reverts to a tenancy in common.

Tenants In Common:    A type of ownership where two or more parties hold separate interests in the vessel but have equal right of usage.

Tender:      A small auxiliary vessel used to tend fishing nets and other floating gear.  Used as auxilliary support for a commercial vessel. Often confused with a "dinghy".

Title:     A certificate issued by a governmental agency that evidences vessel ownership. The term is usually associated with a state issued title certificate.  Often confused with "Registration".

Title Company:     A full service company that provides all types of vessel documentation and state titling.

Title Report:     A comprehensive document that identifies a vessel's specifications, current owners, and recorded liens or encumbrances.

Trade Endorsement:     A qualification that allows a documented vessel to engage in certain types of commercial activities. Usually shown on the "Certificate of  Documentation".

Trade Restrictions:     Restrictions placed upon a documented vessel when it is not qualified to engage in certain commercial activities. Usually arise as a result of foreign build or break in the chain of recorded ownership.



Uniform Commercial Code Filing:     A method of securing interest on non-titled and non-documented vessels. Usually filed and recorded on the state level, but may be filed at the county level in some states. Also known as "UCC Filing".

United States Coast Guard:      A branch of the federal government that enforces maritime regulations. Administers all vessel documentation activities. Also referred to as "USCG" or "U.S. Coast Guard.

USCG:    See "United States Coast Guard".

Use Tax:      A tax that a state levies against a vessel upon its first usage on state waters. Use tax does not apply if retail sales tax was paid when the owner purchased the vessel. It is often confused with "Sales Tax".



Vessel:     Term associated with any object that traverses a body of water.

Vessel Documentation Office:     The U.S. Coast Guard office that administers all documentation activities. See "National Vessel Documentation Center".

Vessel Information System:     A computer database administered by the U.S. Coast Guard that compiles vessel ownership and lien information for all vessels nationwide whether documented or state titled. System is currently under development. Also known as "VIS".

VIS:     See "Vessel Information System".



Yacht:      A luxury vessel used mostly for pleasure purposes. This term is applied to vessels that are propelled by either power or sail.

Yacht Broker:     An individual salesperson who brings a buyer and seller together and assists with the sale. In certain states this is an individual licensed to supervise other vessel salespersons.

Yacht Brokerage:     A business that employs vessel salespersons or brokers. It acquires vessel listings, advertises and promotes such listings, and derives its revenue from commissions earned there from.

Yacht Dealer:      A business that sells new and used vessels, either directly from the factory or from its own inventory. Many yacht dealers also offer brokerage services.


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