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post #11 of 11 Old 03-08-2013
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Dinghy Registration Numbers

Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
Some say that putting the symbol T/T (which denotes Tender To) and then your Documented boat's name will somehow attach it to the boat and avoid the need for titling or registering it. I've never found where that is actually permitted in RI, but may be in other state. My best guess is this is rumor that confuses the difference and the T/T only tags along with the boats title (documentation), not its registration.
This post is focused on the rules regarding yacht tenders / dinghies and not on the broader issue of the yachts themselves.

I'm no lawyer, but........

......I think the source of the confusion Minnewaska mentioned above lies in trying to figure out the meaning of quotes from the US Code and the CFR shown below. Like so much of federal law and regulation it isn't immediately obvious and requires you to pay attention to which shell hides the pea.

The first quote is from the US Code Title 46. It establishes the States with an "approved numbering system" (no doubt approved by the Feds) as the "issuing authority" (as in issuing registration numbers). When a state does not have an approved numbering system, "the Secretary (of the federal department having control over the Coast Guard) is the issuing authority." I would imagine most states have an approved numbering system, and therefore in most states the registration of vessels is a state matter.

Note that in all the quotes below I've cut out sections of the documents that don't apply, but retained enough of the citations so you can go look it up and read it in it's full literary glory should you be so inclined.

Subtitle II - Vessels and Seamen
Part H - Identification of Vessels

Sec. 12302. Standard numbering system

(b) A State with an approved numbering system is the issuing
authority within the meaning of this chapter. The Secretary is the
issuing authority in a State in which a State numbering system has
not been approved.
So, if you're a state with an approved number system...."You're the man!"

In the quote below, the US Code allows both the "Secretary" and the states to exempt certain vessels from numbering requirements. The phrase is "When the Secretary (or state) is the issuing authority..." seems to lead us to who's exemptions may apply.

Subtitle II - Vessels and Seamen
Part H - Identification of Vessels

Sec. 12303. Exemption from numbering requirements

(a) When the Secretary is the authority issuing a number under
this chapter, the Secretary may exempt a vessel or class of vessels
from the numbering requirements of this chapter under conditions
the Secretary may prescribe.
(b) When a State is the issuing authority, it may exempt from the
numbering requirements of this chapter a vessel or class of vessels
exempted under subsection (a) of this section or otherwise as
permitted by the Secretary.
Now we go the Code of Federal Regulations where the "exemptions" allowed by the "Secretary" are spelled out. You'll have to go look at your state laws to see what exemptions to numbering the state may allow.

(From Code of Federal Regulations)

173.13 Exemptions.

Where the Coast Guard issues numbers, the following classes of vessels are exempt, under Section 12303 of Title 46, United States Code, from the numbering provisions of Sections 12301 and 12302 of Title 46, United States Code, and this part:

(a) A vessel that is used exclusively for racing.

(b) A vessel equipped with propulsion machinery of less than 10 horsepower that:

(1) Is owned by the owner of a vessel for which a valid certificate of number has been issued;

(2) Displays the number of that numbered vessel followed by the suffix 1 in the manner prescribed in 173.27; and

(3) Is used as a tender for direct transportation between that vessel and the shore and for no other purpose.
Here is where the confusion arises about numbering dinghys. If you have a dinghy that meets the criteria spelled out in sub paragraph b the text suggests that it doesn't need to be "numbered"......but, note that there is a condition. The expemption applies when the Coast Guard (acting for the Secretary) issues numbers.

Because the Coast Guard issues vessel documents all over the USA, it would appear from this section of the CFR that the exemptions of this section would apply all over the US.

But not so fast..... back to the US Code Title 46:

46 USC 12302 - Standard numbering system.

(a)The Secretary shall prescribe by regulation a standard numbering system for vessels to which this chapter applies. On application by a State, the Secretary shall approve a State numbering system that is consistent with the standard numbering system. In carrying out its numbering system, a State shall adopt any definitions of relevant terms prescribed by regulations of the Secretary.

(b)A State with an approved numbering system is the issuing authority within the meaning of this chapter. The Secretary is the issuing authority in a State in which a State numbering system has not been approved.
My reading of the above paragraphs is that when the state has an approved numbering system (which most do), sub para b says the state is "the issuing authority within the meaning of this chapter." In states without an approved numbering system or in places where US vessels go where states have no jurisdication (like international waters and foreign countries) the Secretary is the issuing authority and so the Secretary's exemptions (outlined in the CFR Sec 173 above) apply.

I think this means that you have to register your dinghy in states having approved numbering systems and where the boat operates under the regulations of the state. So, if you live and operate your boat in a state, that states numbering system applies for the dinghy. Most states don't require registration if the vessel is registered else where and it does not spend more than X days in the state's waters. In my state, it's 60 consequtive days that triggers the requirement to register.

But what if your boat is operated outside the US, or inside the US but is moving about so that it does not trip the 30, 60 or 90 day trigger requiring registration by that state? I believe it means that in those circumstances the Secretary is the issuing authority and the exemptions outlined in the CFR apply.

Note in these limited circumstances, you still have to number have numbers on the dinghy. You need to see another section of the CFR for the details on that scheme (173.27), but it's basically this: the Document number followed by a hyphen and the number 1 (or 2, if you have two dinghies).

As I said, I'm not a lawyer, but because BR spends a lot of time outside the US and moves around a lot while she's here, I've tried to figure it out as I wanted to be in compliance with US law and have an answer for any foreign coast guard or harbor police that might want to see my dinghy registration.

I'd be interested in what the lawyers in the SailNet community might have to say my intrepretations of the Code and CFR.....particularily if any are judges!
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