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Vessel Determinations & Policy Letters

Vessel Determinations

On occasion, State law enforcement agencies, manufacturers or other interested parties will ask the Coast Guard what laws and regulations apply to a particular device being used, or considered for use, on the water. The Coast Guard's first step is to determine whether or not the particular device in question is a "vessel". The process begins with the definition of the word vessel found in 1 USC 3, which is: "The word "vessel" includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water."

The following have been determined to be vessels by the Coast Guard.

  • Gold Dredges
  • Paddleboard
  • Argo-Amphibious ATV
  • Kiteboard
  • Float Tubes
  • Efoils
  • Jetboards

This determination is limited to the application of regulations administered by the U.S. Coast
Guard and does not reflect the opinion of any other department or agency of the federal government. You are encouraged to seek the advice of private counsel and/or the agency administering the particular program(s) with which you are concerned.

Policy Letters

Coast Guard Policy Letters provide detailed guidance on US Coast Guard's standing or views on various subject areas concerning Boating Safety.

BSX Policy Letter 23-03 Exemption from Preemption for Personal Flotation Device Wear on Paddlecraft
BSX Policy Letter 23-02 Restricted Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels for Recreational Boat Operator Education
BSX Policy Letter 23-01 (Ch-01) Recreational Boating Incident Reporting
BSX Correspondence Letter 22-01 Fees for Issuing a Vessel Certificate of Number.
BSX Policy Letter 22-02 (Ch-1) Requirements for Mechanically Propelled Personal Hydrofoils (eFoils) and Mechanically Propelled Surfboards (JetBoards).
BSX Policy Letter (Sep 2015)

Clarification on Size of Certificate of Number Issued to Vessels.

Product Assurance Branch policy letters for recreational boat manufacturers may be found at