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Any documented vessel may be used for recreational purposes, regardless of its endorsement, but a vessel documented with a recreational endorsement only may not be used for any other purpose. Also exempt are Coastwise qualified, non-self-propelled vessels used in coastwise trade within a harbor, on the rivers or lakes (except the Great Lakes) of the US or the internal waters or canal of any state. A Certificate of Documentation may be endorsed for fishery, coastwise, registry, or recreation.Documented vessels do not display their official numbers on the outside of the hull, but are identified by the name and hailing port.The application for documentation must include a name for the vessel composed of letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals and may not exceed 33 characters.Build evidence is normally established by submitting a Builder's Certification on form CG-1261.That form must be completed by the person who constructed or oversaw the construction of the vessel or an official of the company that built the vessel who has examined the records of the company to determine the facts of build.The vessel name of a commercial vessel must also be marked on the port and starboard bow and the vessel name and the hailing port must also be marked on the stern.

As such it enjoys a certain priority in the event of default.

In addition, at least 75% of the stock must be vested in US Citizens for a coastwise endorsement, and more than 50% of the voting stock must be vested in US Citizens for a fisheries endorsement.

Evidence that a vessel was built in the US is required for a vessel which is to be used in the fisheries or coastwise trade.

Vessels that do not operate on the navigable waters of the US or in the fisheries in the EEZ, are exempt from the requirement to be documented.

In addition, towboats operating between points in the US or the EEZ or between the EEZ and points in the US and dredges operating in the US or the EEZ must be documented. Most vessels more than 25 feet in length will measure five net tons or more.