Guide to Documented Vessel Number For US Commercial Fishing Boats

Documented Vessel Number

Boat numbering is a system used in the United States as a way to identify a vessel, ensure safety measures are being followed, and that boats are complying with all federal regulations. If you own or operate a boat, knowing your boat’s number is helpful for documentation and identification purposes. Use this guide to what a documented vessel number is and why it’s an important part of being a responsible boat owner. 

Hull Identification Number (HIN)

This is one of the numbers that your vessel may have to identify, both for documentation purposes and in cases of emergency, loss, or theft. 

  • The number uniquely identifies the boat and any vessel constructed or imported into the United States after 1972 is required to have a HIN.
  • You can find the HIN on the starboard side of the transom and it should be engraved or carved into the boat’s structure.

The HIN format is regulated in the following ways:

  • Is a 12-character code that includes both letters and numbers.
  • The first three characters are the manufacturer identification code, which is assigned by the United States Coast Guard.
  • The remaining characters are the serial number or production number associated with the boat.
  • The ninth character stands for the manufacturing year.
  • The tenth character is the month of production.
  • The eleventh character is the day of the month of production.
  • The twelfth character is a check digit that is used to verify the validity of the HIN.

State Registration Numbers

If your boat is registered at the state level, there are additional regulations to be aware of. 

  • Fishing boats must display state registration numbers and validation decals.
  • Numbers can be found on both sides of the bow and must be block letters in a color that contrasts the hull.
  • The size and color of the characters vary by state, so check with yours to find out this information.
  • The numbers must be 3 inches high in a color that contrasts with the hull.
  • Validation decals must be affixed near the registration number and indicate the expiration date of the registration.

Documentation Vessel Number

This number goes with the guidelines that surround properly documenting your boat. 

  • If your boat is over 5 net tons, you can register it with the USCG, which offers certain advantages on the water.
  • This number must be displayed on a visible portion of the interior of the hull.

Documented Vessel Number


It’s important that all numbers pertaining to your boat are in compliance with the regulations that go with them, including both state and federal laws. This keeps you and other boaters safe on the water and prevents costly fines and penalties. If you need assistance finding your numbers or have questions about what constitutes compliance, you can contact the United States Coast Guard or relevant state authorities in your area. 

If you have questions about the documented vessel number or need help facilitating a commercial fishing permit, we are here to help. Contact the Commercial Fishing Permits Center today to get started. 

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