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VOL. 11 NO. 5
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Be wary of renewal notices

Don't get overcharged for USCG documentation renewal

Anchoring your boat

Boat owners should be wary of any letter arriving by mail offering renewal of their U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation. These letters may direct them to websites that show what appears to be an increase in the annual fee to renew USCG documentation.

While the Coast Guard does send official annual renewal notices by mail, some notices are sent by third-party companies whose names or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official USCG Vessel Documentation Center. Some notices don’t disclaim that they are not official USCG correspondence.

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 of $26 is often much lower than what third-party companies may charge. To renew, go to and click on “instructions and forms.”

To be documented, a vessel must weigh at least 5 net tons and, with the exception of certain oil-spill response vessels, be owned by a U.S. citizen. Boats about 27 feet in length or longer generally meet the weight requirement.

If boat owners wish to file a consumer complaint about these misleading notices or any other boating-related advertisement or company, you may contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or through its website.
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