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Register a boat: Documented vessels

What is a documented vessel?

A documented vessel is a ship with a valid marine document issued by the United States Coast Guard. The federal government uses this document to register ships of 5 net tons or more for use in times of war. Documenting your ship gives you:

  • Firm evidence of nationality for international travel.
  • The right to engage in open trade between the states.
  • Access to a preferred mortgage for financing the vessel.

Registration requirements

Unless specifically exempt, you must meet all Washington state registration requirements when using a documented vessel on Washington waters. This means you must register your boat in Washington:

  • Within 60 days of moving to Washington with the vessel.
  • Within 15 days of buying the vessel, if bought it in another state and you live in Washington.

Exempt vessels

  • Military vessels
  • Public vessels of the United States or the American Red Cross
  • Vessels owned by a state or subdivision and used for governmental purposes
  • Vessels with a marine document as a vessel of the United States that are primarily engaged in commerce, including:
    • Commercial fishing vessels
    • Barges
    • Charter vessels (bare vessel charters or timeshare vessels)

How to register your documented vessel

To register a documented vessel in Washington:

  1. Provide all of the following:
    • A current copy of the U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation.
    • A completed Vessel Title Application.
    • A check or money order payable to the Department of Licensing to pay the fees.
  2. Submit your registration form, supporting documents, and fees:

Decals and registration

When you’ve registered your boat, you’ll get your registration and a set of decals with the assigned registration number (WN#). You’ll also get Vessel Numbering Instructions showing how to properly display the registration number and decals on your boat

  • If you register by mail, you’ll get them in the mail.
  • If you register at an office, the licensing agent will give them to you before you leave.

Titles for documented vessels

We don’t issue titles for documented vessels since the federal government provides the ownership documents.

How to remove a vessel from documentation

  1. Ask the Coast Guard for a “Letter of Deletion.”
  2. Visit a vehicle/boat licensing office and bring all of the following:
    • A copy of the Letter of Deletion.
    • If ownership changed, a signed, notarized Release of Interest from all the registered owners reflected in the Coast Guard records.
    • Payment for the $5 fee.
      • You may pay with cash, check, or money order. Some debit/credit cards are accepted at most offices.
      • An additional $12 service fee may apply.

Related laws and rules

See also:

Washington Healthcare Finder
Access Washington