BoatUS Consumer Alert
Official-Looking Vessel Documentation Renewal Notices Can Lead To Confusion, Higher Costs
May 1, 2017
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) Consumer Protection Department is advising boaters with vessels having a US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by US mail offering renewal.
An increasing number of BoatUS members have complained that these letters direct them to Web sites that may be mistaken for the actual US Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center located in Falling Waters, W. Va., and appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew US Coast Guard (USCG) documentation.
BoatUS advises that while the USCG does send official annual renewal notices by US mail, other notices being received by members are not from the USCG but rather third-party companies whose name or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official USCG Vessel Documentation Center.
Letters Look 'Real'
Members of the half-million boat owners group report the letters look like "real" USCG communications. Some examples members have forwarded to BoatUS do not have any disclaimers noting that they are not official USCG correspondence.
While third-party companies may legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, the USCG's own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price, $26, is often much lower than what third-party services may charge. To renew, go to the USCG National Documentation Center Web site at www.uscg.mil/nvdc and click on "instructions and forms."
To be documented, a vessel must measure at least 5 net tons and, with the exception of certain oil-spill response vessels, owned by a US citizen. Boats about 27 feet in length or longer generally meet the weight requirement.
Consumers Can File
If boat owners wish to file a consumer complaint about this or any other boating-related advertisement or company, BoatUS welcomes boaters to visit http://my.boatus.com/consumer/dispute.asp and click on "send us a complaint" button.
Boaters also advises boaters who may have received mail that they believe is misleading or deceptive may contact the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or through its Web site https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.