Starting in 2022 U.S. Coast Guard Will Change Certificate of Documentation to 5 Years

The USCG has been phasing in the change since 2019, allowing recreational boaters to select renewals of one to five years, but starting January 2022, five years will be the only option.

NATIONWIDE— Changes are on the horizon for recreational boaters who document their vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard. Starting January 2022, all vessels will be given a five-year Certificate of Documentation instead of a one-year.

The change is part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018. The act included a three-year phase-in period, which started Jan. 1, 2019, and runs through Dec. 31, 2021, during which vessel owners are able to choose renewals of one, two, three, four, or five years.

Prior to the 2018 Act, CODs were effective for one year and cost $26 per year. The new five-year documentation cost is fixed at $130. Additional fees apply for initial documentation as well as exchanges. The USCG will not issue refunds if an owner chooses to cancel documentation before its five-year expiration or if a vessel is sold during the renewal period.

Commercial vessel owners are not eligible for multi-year documents and must continue to follow the current process for renewing one-year CODs at a cost of $26.

The change is projected to save both the USCG and boaters time and money.

The USCG declined a request for an interview with the Log and said answers to our questions were in a Federal Register notice.

The Federal Register noticed said there are no maritime safety or security reasons to change the recreational vessel COD validity from one year to five but Congress determined that a change in the validity was in the best interest of recreational vessel owners. The federal register estimated approximately 165,309 recreational vessel owners will be affected annually. The notice estimated the industry for recreational vessel owners of vessels of at least 5 net tons will see a savings of $696,727 annualized over 10 years. Since the number of annual renewals the USCG processes will decline, it was estimated the USCG will save approximately $997,345 annually through reductions in the costs of administrating COD renewals. Boat Owners Association of United States (BoatUS), a nationwide recreational boating advocacy, services, and safety group, said the new rule will spare some boaters a yearly task.

“The change to a five-year documentation period will be a time-saver,” said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy in a released statement.

All commercial vessels must be documented with USCG and recreational vessels more than five net tons, about the size of a 26-foot boat, have the option to document their vessel with the USCG or their state.

According to BoatUS, recreational vessel owners generally choose to federally document vessels with the USCG versus the more common practice of state registration, for one of two reasons: the boat was purchased with a bank loan and the lender required it or the owner plans to travel beyond U.S. waters. A COD is internationally recognized and makes it easier for American vessels to enter and leave foreign ports.

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