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Old 08-03-2020, 17:19   #1
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Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

My Certificate of Documentation has restrictions on it - "No Coastwise" and "No Fishery". I called the Documentation Center to ask why. They told me that "Build Evidence" was never supplied.

My boat is from the mid-70's. The company has been out of business since the 80's.

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge about whether there is a way to either submit alternate build evidence or a way to have the restrictions removed?

Sister ships do not have this restriction. The build evidence would be the same since the layout and equipment is stock, but I don't have copies or the original for my my hull number.

Having said that, I'll admit that I am not clear on the point of the restrictions. If I am sailing in Coastwise waters, am I violating some rule or law? Am I vulnerable to enforcement actions if boarded or had to call for help?

Are the restrictions something that an insurance company would care about?

The Documentation Center tries to be helpful but anything beyond submitting the original paperwork goes beyond their script and sphere of influence. There must be a way.

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Old 08-03-2020, 17:53   #2
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

Those are both very standard for recreational vessel documentation.

"No coastwise" is shorthand for "no coastwise trade". You cannot use your boat and engage in trade when sailing between ports in the US. This includes passengers for hire (even when leaving/returning to a single port) or carrying cargo. If you don't carry/intend to carry passengers for hire then it doesn't matter a bit. To get a coastwise endorsement your craft must have been built in the US (hence the build evidence) or you must apply for a waiver.

No fisheries is largely similar, you cannot engage in commercial fishing in US waters from your boat. Similar reasons, it's protectionism for the US boat-building industry.

If you don't want to do either of those things then no big deal at all. Most foreign-built recreational vessels carry those notes on their documentation for the life of the vessel.

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Old 08-03-2020, 18:29   #3
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

Unless you are looking to run a charter business, or be a fishing guide, you do not care about these restrictions. These restrictions are very common, they are on every foreign built vessel documented in the USA, for example.

Even in the absence of any original documentation of the original build, there IS a way around, if you really need it. Talk to your congressman. Seriously. It is not unusual for them to tag a single line item amendment into a bill that say something like: "Notwithstanding anything else, vessel #9999999 can be documented for coastwise and fishery service in the USA."

Presto, forever afterwards your documentation certificate will say: "Coastwise and Fisheries, Special Legislation"
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Old 10-03-2020, 13:12   #4
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

Thanks Billknny for the congressman suggestion. That wouldn't have occurred to me.

I spoke to the Documentation center again for alternatives. It comes down to either having the original build documentation (Builder's Certificate) or an affidavit from someone who maintains the builder's records stating the facts of the build letter.

This is interesting... where do builder records and hull molds go when yacht yards go bust? Apparently the government doesn't maintain these records. Is this something that an owner's club may have access to?

They did offer a third alternative, which is to contact the Maritime Administration, pay a fee and apply for a waiver to allow the boat to be used for hire. They said that foreign built boats have to do this all the time. If anyone else needs to do this, the Maritime Administration is at 800-996-2723
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Old 15-03-2020, 09:55   #5
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

No Coastwise and No Fisheries, means that you have not received endorsements to be allowed to perform coastwise trade between USA ports, nor are you allowed to perform commercial fishing in USA waters. The terms mean NO ENDORSEMENT.

Those terms do not per say imply restrictions, that do indicate you have not been provided endorsements to be permitted to such actions with your boat. Albeit, not having the requisite endorsements means in fact you are subject to the maritime restrictions against such activities.

As a recreational craft you did not request either of the endorsements and did not provide the request documentation to obtain approval for the endorsements. It is the type of documentation that most every flagged USA yacht has been issued. Your documentation is fine for the intended use. Go and enjoy. Godspeed.

One can think of it like your driver's license, there are licenses that provide endorsements for specific types of vehicles [e.g. Gross Vehicle Weights above a specific limit], Oversized Vehicles, Dangerous Cargo, Passenger carrying vehicles e.g., buses, shuttles. The average person's drivers license provides for driving vehicles of ordinary size and purpose upto a certain size. If you intend to drive a vehicle that is larger size and / or of special cargo or passengers then you need to obtain the specific endorsement license.
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Old 15-03-2020, 16:02   #6
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

I was hoping to take passengers for hire between US ports. My understanding of the Coastwise restriction is that I either need a waiver or to have the restriction removed.

The vessel was built in the US. The first owner didn't Federally document it. It was run with State registration for a good number of years and then sold to a British citizen who Documentated it in Great Britain. When it came back to the US it was treated as if it were foreign built, which it is not

The original documents are no longer available unless someone knows the location of the records from the Down East Yacht company, formerly of Santa Anna California.

The search for a waiver or alternative verification of build got me reading about the Jones Act. This Act has a huge impact on port to port operations, shipping, even offshore wind farms.

The act was meant to bolster the Merchant Marine as a matter of National Security and to shore up ship yards but it has many unintended negative consequences.

At this point if I were to get a waiver, it would be through the Jones Act.

I am surprised that there isn't a work around where a vessel could be certified by a naval architect, creating new build evidence for my Documentation.
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Old 15-03-2020, 16:25   #7
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

I grew up in that hotbed of boatbuilding in '70s. Is your boat the original Down East 38, or one of their "newer" models? My father-in-law currently owns one, I'll see what kind of information he has.

I think the 38 was drawn by Henry Mohrschladt who went on to draw a bunch of other boats for southern CA builders and was associated with many different builders. He'd be about 75 or 80 now, but last I heard he was retired someplace like Phoenix/Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, AZ. Might be worth looking up to see if he knows anything about paperwork.
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Old 15-03-2020, 17:04   #8
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

The problem is the British Documentation and/or foreign ownership. That happened to Merritt sport fishing boat here in Kona when the boat was purchased by a Japanese National. Don't know how they worked it out but believe they eventually got the boat restored to charterable status.

Have you tried the Maritime Administration?? Sounds like that would be the way to go if they can restore the boat.

Your problem is not the country of build but foreign ownership.
Peter O.
'Ae'a, Pearson 35
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Old 15-03-2020, 18:11   #9
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Re: Certificate of Documentation Restrictions

The cabotage provisions relating to the Jones Act restrict the carriage of goods or passengers between United States ports to U.S.-built and flagged vessels. It has been codified as portions of 46 U.S.C. Generally, the Jones Act prohibits any foreign-built, foreign-owned or foreign-flagged vessel from engaging in coastwise trade within the United States. A number of other statutes affect coastwise trade and should be consulted along with the Jones Act. These include the Passenger Vessel Services Act, 46 U.S.C. § 289, which restricts coastwise transportation of passengers, and 46 U.S.C. § 12108, which restricts the use of foreign vessels to commercially catch or transport fish in U.S. waters. These provisions also require at least three-fourths (75 percent) of the crew members to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Moreover, the steel of foreign repair work on the hull and superstructure of a U.S.-flagged vessel is limited to ten percent by weight. This restriction largely prevents Jones Act ship-owners from refurbishing their ships at overseas shipyards.

The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (sometimes abbreviated to PVSA, Passenger Services Act, or PSA) is a protectionist piece of United States legislation which came into force in 1886 relating to cabotage. Essentially, it says:

No foreign vessels shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States, either directly or by way of a foreign port, under a penalty of $200 [now $762] for each passenger so transported and landed.

As a result, all vessels have engaged in the coastwise trade have been required to be coastwise-qualified (i.e., U.S.-built, owned, and documented). Under the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (46 USC § 55103), non-coastwise-qualified vessels cannot transport passengers directly between U.S. ports. Generally, a passenger is any person carried on a vessel who is not directly and substantially connected with the operation of such vessel, its navigation, ownership, or business.

Reference the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration [MARAD] Small Vessel Waiver Program linked below


What is the Small Vessel Waiver Program?

The Jones Act requires that vessels operating in coastwise commerce be built in the U.S. whenever possible. However, there are many cases in which foreign-built vessels or vessels of unknown build can contribute to U.S. commerce, especially those operating as commercial passenger vessels. The Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) -- contained within the Jones Act -- authorizes MARAD to waive the U.S. build requirement in certain circumstances. These are known as Small Vessel Waivers.


To be eligible for a Small Vessel Waiver, the vessel must:

be owned by a U.S. citizen or organization,
be at least three years old,
intend to carry passengers only,
carry no more than 12 passengers at a time when in service, and
satisfy a series of separate U.S. Coast Guard requirements

Important Notice:

Marine diesel engines certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as recreational engines are in some cases prohibited from being used for commercial purposes. To learn more about how the US Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations may apply for your vessel, please visit EPA’s Domestic Marine Diesel Engine Web Page (EPA’s Domestic Marine Diesel Engine Web Page) or send an email to

How Does It Work?

Owner of the vessel submits an application for the Small Vessel Waiver via web or traditional mail. See this guidance document for details about the application process.
MARAD publishes a Public Notice in the Federal Register for 30 days, which notes the vessel details and intended use.
During the Public Notice period, MARAD uses all sources available to determine if the issuance of a waiver will negatively impact U.S. vessel builders or the coastal trade business of any person who uses U.S.-built vessels.
If MARAD does not anticipate a negative impact, MARAD issues the waiver. MARAD approves most waiver requests.
The waiver becomes part of the vessel’s documentation and stays with the vessel if it is sold. After receiving a waiver, applicants should file for a Coastwise Trade Endorsement for the passenger trade with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) if the vessel does not already hold this endorsement. For information on meeting USCG requirements, contact the United States Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center online or at 1-800-799-8362.
Although the application for a Small Vessel Waiver can be submitted by mail, we highly recommend that owners apply using the online form and submit the $500 application fee using the online payment option. This will expedite the application process, which can take approximately two (2) to three (3) months once all materials are submitted.

Apply On-line (recommended)

Read this guidance document and make sure you are eligible for a Small Vessel Waiver.
Fill out and submit this online form (MA-1023).
After clicking "Submit", you will be taken to a Small Vessel Waiver page on, which you can use to pay the non-refundable $500 application fee with a credit card or ACH Bank Account Debt.

Apply Non-electronically

MARAD prefers and recommends that vessel owners submit their applications and the related fee using the online form. If you are unable to submit your application using the online form, feel free to contact the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift at (202) 366-4610 Ext. 5, for further instructions, or submit by traditional mail:

Print form MA-1023 in PDF
Fill out all required fields
Mail the completed form to:
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590
Attn: Bianca Carr W23-465
Go to the Small Vessel Waiver page on and pay the non-refundable $500 application fee using a credit card or ACH Bank Account Debt.

Denials & Exceptions

A Small Vessel waiver does not waive any vessel documentation, manning, or inspection requirement per United States Coast Guard law.
MARAD no longer issues waivers for “All coasts of the United States.” In the application's Geographic Location space, list ALL States of intended operation (i.e., New York, Florida, etc.).
Owners of U.S.-built vessels operating in certain geographic areas have demonstrated to MARAD that the introduction of foreign-built vessels would have an undue adverse affect on U.S. commerce in that area. MARAD will not issue waiver in these areas. Contact the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift with questions.
Vessels that carry out activities such as carriage of cargo, commercial fishing, towing, dredging and salvage do NOT qualify for a Small Vessel waiver. Sport fishing vessels are permitted as long as caught fish are not sold commercially.

MARAD can and will revoke a waiver if it is determined that any instance of fraud occurred during the application process.
For questions, contact the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift at or 202-366-4610 (press 5 for coastwise team).

Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2019

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