Is the U.S. Coast Guard Sending You a Letter? Or Is It a Trick?

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) is advising boaters with vessels that have a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by U.S. mail that offers renewal.

While the Coast Guard does send official annual renewal notices by U.S. mail, BoatU.S. reports that members have been receiving notices that are not from the Coast Guard but from third-party companies whose names or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC).

These letters direct the recipients to websites that mimic the actual Coast Guard NVDC, but with a significant increase in the annual fee to renew Coast Guard documentation.

The USCG is aware of the issue and in 2017 issued a bulletin warning boat owners that the third-party companies have no affiliation with the Coast Guard and are not endorsed by the federal agency.

While third-party companies may legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, the Coast Guard’s own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price ranges from $26 for one year up to $130 for a 5-year expiration, which is often much lower than what third-party services may charge.