Will the USCG’s New Renewal Fee Affect Missouri Boat Owners?

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The U.S. Coast Guard has bad news for Lake of the Ozarks boat owners with USCG documentation. As of Nov. 10, 2014, the coast guard will charge a $26 fee every year for boat owners to have their documents renewed, a service which was previously free.

USCG documentation is optional for recreational boats (and available to boats over five tons) and required for commercial boats. Approximately 265,000 vessels across the U.S. are documented by the Coast Guard, and the organization says it’s only trying to more accurately reflect the costs of the documentation process.

That hasn’t stopped the new rule from drawing wide criticism from boat owners, who point to the high cost of initial filing and inconvenient and seemingly arbitrary renewal process as reasons they shouldn’t have to pay an additional fee every year.

[[[QUOTE: What’s wrong with the process now and do you think the USCG will streamline it like you suggested?

Others point out that the cost is an unwelcome burden on boat owners who already have to pay for boat repairs and maintenance, dock and marina fees, and off-season boat storage to protect vessels during winter weather.

Boat owners often have pay to register and title vessels in their own states as well, based on state guidelines. The State of Missouri already requires all vessels (sailboats, motorboats and amphibious vehicles) longer than 12 feet to be titled and registered within 60 days of purchase. There’s a penalty of $10 on the 61st day after purchase, and the penalty increases by $10 for every 30 days after. The penalty maxes out at $30.

Though Missouri boaters do have to pay a renewal fee, they only have to renew vessels every three years, and there’s no late renewal penalty.

Though commercial vessels won’t have much choice but to register, there’s no significant advantage to USCG registration for recreational boats in Missouri. Most of the advantages of USCG registration involve buying and selling: title transfers are easier to verify and federal documentation can make for an quicker sale.

USCG documentation can also make it easier to travel into foreign waters, but that won’t be a concern for most Missouri boaters. The Department of Homeland Security does use USCG documentation to record crashes and recover stolen boats, so that’s something to consider.

Given that the number of boats registered in Missouri (322,253) exceeds the number of boats with USCG registration, the new coast guard rule is unlikely to affect most boaters in the state. Recreational boaters who want to avoid the fee will likely be better off sticking with state registration.
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