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Coast Guard to charge $26 annual fee to boat owners

The rules regarding vessel documentation renewal fees are officially being changed. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is announcing in the Federal Register of Tuesday, Aug. 12 that in the future it will list separately the annual fee for renewals of endorsements upon the Certificate of Documentation. The change takes place Nov. 10. Vessel owners will find a separate $26 fee to cover the costs USCG incurs for documenting a vessel.

USCG opened a public comment period last year when it proposed the rule and received 2,720 responses. But it decided not to make any changes to its proposal. Under law, USCG must collect a fee to cover its expenses but no more when it provides a service to a private individual or organization. The certificate shows vessel nationality and allows owners to obtain preferred mortgages. Existing fees were first proposed in 1993 and no longer reflect the true cost of endorsing a boat. A USCG review in 2010 recommended the update and a separate fee for annual renewal.

While USCG is not changing the fee structure in any other way at this time, it is leaving open the door to further changes, such as charging a fee for any type of resubmitted request.

Many of the commenters suggested that states, instead of USCG, document recreational vessels. Some complained that they have to pay both state and federal documentation fees. Some suggested that USCG merely charge states for the information instead of charging owners. But USCG noted that federal documentation is optional for recreational boat owners and provides additional benefits to them over state documentation. Some suggested doing away with the fee for recreational documentation altogether, but USCG responded that it costs the same to document any vessel.

Some complained that the whole documentation program should be eliminated, privatized or outsourced but these ideas lie outside of the scope of the rulemaking. USCG promises to use the additional money it collects to eliminate the backlog in documenting recreational boats.

If you have any questions,contact Mary Jager, CG-DCO-832, Coast Guard, (202) 372-1331, Mary.K.Jager@uscg.mil.