Boat Registration
and Titling

In Hawaii

Laws, government regulations, and paperwork can take the fun out of boating. There are a lot of t’s to cross and i’s to dot and boating agencies make you jump through hoops just to get an annual sticker. Documentation can be complex and confusing and truly does require some special knowledge. We are certified registration and titling experts to help you through your boat transaction, however complex it is. We can protect you from fraud, bad titles, and investigate if liens exist on a vessel. We have had exposed fake Saudi Princes trying to buy boats and helped an Italian transfer ownership to a Spaniard and operated the boat in Hawaii.

Vessels are usually registered and titled federally with the United States Coast Guard if they are over 5 net tons (think 26+ feet) and owned by a US Citizen. However a vessel may be locally registered and titled with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation Division (DOBOR). For Japanese and other Foreign Nationals, local registration is a common option. A vessel may not be registered with both Federal and State entities simultaneously.

Federal registration and titling is typically favored as the record keeping is more robust and provides a vessel a “passport” and its owner the ability to cruise international and foreign waters, like the South Pacific and Tahiti. Persons with local State registration cannot obtain a complete chain of title records. It can also be difficult to track down liens and outstanding fees owed on a vessel prior to transfer or purchase for local State registered vessels. Moreover, the general process of waiting in line for State registration can be time consuming in itself. Many lending institutions require federal documentation and registration for those that are financing their vessel. At the end of the day, time is money, so hire an expert to guide you through the registration and title process and protect you along the way.

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Tips for USCG Federally Registered Vessels

If a vessel is registered Federally with the USCG, the vessel name and hailing port (city and state) must be marked on the stern and the registration number must be mounted inside the vessel. If the vessel has a dinghy or tender it may share the Federal registration of the primary vessel if the dinghy is marked with the boat name.

Tips for USCG Federally Registered Vessels

If the vessel is registered in Hawaii, the registration decal and HA registration number must be affixed to both sides of the bow of the vessel. The registration numbers and letters must be a block style and a minimum of 3” in size and contrast with the color of the hull. There are additional requirements for commercial vessels that are on a case-by-case basis depending on the size, type, and use of the vessel. The local State DOBOR offices for vessel registration and titling are on all the major Islands of Hawaii.

Additional Boating Requirements in Hawaii

Boat Insurance Requirements in Hawaii

All vessels, commercial and private, must carry liability insurance with a limit of a minimum of $500,000 before they can be used in Hawaiian waters.  You must also list DLNR and DOBOR as additional insured interest.

Department of Land & Natural Resources Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation4 Sand Island Access RoadHonolulu, Hawaii 96819

Boat Licensing Requirements in Hawaii

All boaters operating in the State of Hawaii must have a valid Boater’s Certificate. This is an online course offered by Boat US. The Boat US Online course is the only free Online Boating Safety Course approved by DOBOR. Commercial boat operators have additional licensing requirements including but limited to a Merchant Mariner’s Credential through the United States Coast Guard.

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Oahu Island
O’ahu District Office4 Sand Island
Access Road, Honolulu, HI 96819

Hawaii Island
Hawai`i District Office Honokohau Small Boat
Harbor 74-380 Kealakehe Parkway, Kailua-Kona,
Hawai`i 96740-2704
(808) 327-3690
(808) 327-3675

Maui and Lanai Islands
Maui County District Office101 Ma`alaea Boat
Harbor Road, Wailuku, Hawai`i 96793
(808) 243-5824
(808) 243-5829

Molokai Island
Kaunakakai Small Boat Harbor Office
Located on the Kaunakakai Pier
Mailing address: P.O. Box 738, Kaunakakai,
Hawai`i 96748-0738
(808) 553-1742
(808) 553-1771

Kauai Island
Kaua`i District Office Located on the grounds of Nawiliwili
Small Boat Harbor 2494 Niumalu Road, Lihu`e, Hawai`i 96766
(808) 241-3111
(808) 241-3117

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