American Vessel Documentation Association, Inc.

Vessel Documentors Mark 20 Years of Service

Firms Stepped in When Coast Guard "Downsized," Moved Online

Formed to fill the void due to the consolidation of Coast Guard Documentation offices in major U.S. coastal and inland ports to a single East Coast location in 1995, the American Vessel Documentation Association (AVDA) has helped boat owners access the important government service despite many changes then and in the ensuing 20 years. Marking their 20th anniversary, members continue to facilitate initial documentations and provide renewal and change services when vessels change hands, move, are renamed or financed.

"Keeping up with the operational and regulatory changes during the past two decades has been challenging for our members," - notes AVDA President Marie Hayward. "While the documentation process has aimed for simplification, the cutbacks in federal resources has shifted much of the responsibility for correct filings and follow-ups to us and the owners. Documentation brings significant benefits to owners, lenders and others involved, so we see it as part of our job to help support the changes and the government personnel involved in carrying out the mission and goals of the National Vessel Documentation Center."

Hayward emphasizes that the experience AVDA members gained in living through the changes has made them better qualified to work within the system today. Some things havenít changed for the AVDA members in that they provide another set of eyes to make sure documentation details are accurate and offer third-party independence between the government and owners and/or lenders. In addition, AVDA members understand "errors and omission" details and maintain insurance to guard against this exposure. Finally, having the forum of other professionals in the field keeps them aware and up to date on current and proposed changes and an organizational voice to provide input to those managing the documentation effort.

Vessel documentation can be cumbersome and understanding the process reduces the effort and time involved. AVDA members have trained personnel to weave through some of the intricacies of preparation and filing of paperwork or online forms. The documentation process has seen a number of changes over the years. Since the consolidation of all personnel to one location, the centralization of paperwork, communications and work flow has shifted from being a localized routine to a distant one. Other changes have included requiring annual renewals and fees, a revised format for Certificates of Documentation and Abstracts of Title.

And changes will continue, the latest including resolution of problems with the switchover to a new computer operating system, as well as implementation of the new federal payment program. "AVDA members have submission and filing expertise that is helpful to new personnel who will be coming to the documentation center as the existing staff transitions to retirement," - Hayward adds.

Vessel documentation is a national form of registration, provides official evidence of nationality for international cruising purposes, provides for unhindered commerce between the states, and admits vessels to certain restricted trades, such as coastwise trade and the fisheries. Since 1920, vessel financing has been enhanced through the parallel issuance of a "preferred ship mortgage" on documented vessels. A "preferred" mortgage establishes a maritime lien which provides a higher level of security for lenders making loans on qualifying vessels. Vessels measuring 5 net tons can be documented; this typically translates to power boats of 25-feet and greater, or sail craft of about 22-feet and up.


About AVDA

AVDA is a national non-profit professional organization providing vessel documentation and marine titling services to recreational and commercial boat operators in all coastal and inland ports. Members work with marine lenders, brokers and the U.S. Coast Guard Documentation Center to simplify and expedite issuance of mortgage and lien recordation. Incorporated in 1995, the Association's 45 members are celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

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