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Manufacturer Identification Codes
Hull Identification Numbers
and Imported Boats

BOATOWNERS! For information on HINs for boatowners go to HIN 101 for Boatowners. HIN 101 For Boat Owners Rev2.

US and Canadian Boat Manufacturers can skip the section on imported boats

Imported Boats: MICs and HINs

Imported boats, when entering the US,  have to meet the same regulations as boats made in the USA. So what about the boats coming in that already have HINs. If the boat is from Canada, then the HIN is good in the USA (and vice versa). The USA has a mutual recognition agreement with Canada, and Canada is part of the Manufacturers Identification Code system. Canada assigns MICs starting with Q, Z and Y.

Boats from other countries that have an HIN, and a MIC assigned by their country of origin, are not accepted. The reason being that other countries, particulalry the EU, UK, Australia, France and others, have their own system of assigning MICs and use the same ones the USA uses, so a boat coming in from another country may have the same MIC as a boat built in the USA. However, the US Coast Guard has no jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer, but they do have jurisdiction over boats sold in the USA.  Therfore,  the Coast Guard requires that companies that import boats have a US agent. This can be anyone physically in the US. A foreign company doesn't have to open a branch office here or send their own agent here (but they can if they so wish). They can simply contract with someone to represent them. Then the Coast Guard assigns a MIC to the agent and all the boats imported by that agent will have that MIC, and the agent will assign HINs to the boats. Sound complicated? It can be because some agents import more than one brand of boat. Plus that, imported boats often  slip through the cracks in the system and cause confusion at the state registration level.

So if you want to import boats from Canada, you're all set. If you have a MIC assigned by Canada then you don't need a U.S. MIC. But if foreign company wants to import boats into the USA they need an agent who has a U.S. MIC, or if you are importing boats you need a U..S MIC.

Also, the Coast Guard does not and will not assign a MIC to a foreign builder. As stated above, they have no jurisdiction over a builder outside the U.S.  This does not mean that the manufacture can not put a US MIC and HIN on a boat destined for import to the US. The agent can give them the HIN numbers and they can put them on during manufacture.  This will expedite the boats trip through customs.

Importers need to continue reading the information below on how to obtain a MIC, and how to assign HINs.

Boat builders start here:

How do I get Hull Identification Numbers and a Manufacturers Identification Code for my boat building company?  (MICs And HINs)

New Manufacturers: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What do I need to do to build boats and sell them?

Call the U S Coast Guard and request a MIC application. 

202-372-1052  Mr. Mike Jendrossek

  or E-Mail the US Coast Guard at MICapp@uscg.mil.  Use this e-mail address for MIC applications only. For general inquiries call 202-372-1077

or write to:  

U.S. Coast Guard
Chief, Recreational Boating Product Assurance Branch (CG-BSX-23)
Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20593-7501

See the U. S. Coast Guard's site for boat manufacturers at Safe Afloat for more information.

If you are building boats for commercial use and marking them "For Commercial Use Only" See Commercial Boats:

Look up the U. S Coast Guard's Boatbuilder's Handbook.  At the bottom of the page there is a link to download the Boatbuilder's Handbook in PDF format.

Ask for a Manufacturers Identification Code. They will send you a form to fill out and mail back. It's free! This will be a three character code that identifies you as the manufacturer such as:


This is a MIC. It will be the first three characters in the Hull Identification Number (HIN)you place on every boat.

Q. What is a Hull Identification Number?

An HIN is a unique number assigned to every boat. You assign this number. Here's how.

The USA rules for HINs are in 33CFR Subpart C 181.21 -181.35

In CANADA the rules for HINs are contained in TP1332

A HIN is a 12 character number that looks like this:


So, what does it all mean? The ABC is the MIC.

The next five characters can be anything you want to assign. It can be 12345, or 00001, or 0000A, or 32001. Whatever you want to put in there except: O, I or Q. These characters look too much like zeros or ones. Some manufacturers use a sort of code in this area. For instance, if they build a 30 footer and this is the first one then they would use 30001. Others just assign consecutive numbers, 00001, 00002, 00003, etc.

The ninth character identifies the month when the boat was certified (or built, I will explain this later) as shown in the chart below. So if it's built in May the ninth character would be an E.

It works like this:

A: January G: July
B: February H: August
C: March I: September (yes it's an I, but it's ok)
D: April J: October
E: May K: November
F: June L: December

The tenth character is last digit of the year when the boat was certified (or built), for example if the year is 1997, then the tenth character would be a 7, or if it is the year 2000, it would be a zero.

The last two characters are the model year.  The definition of model year in the Code Of Federal Regulations is: For boats with model year 2018 or earlier:

33 CFR 181.3 Model year means the period beginning August 1 of any year and ending on July 31 of the following year. Each Model year is designated by the year in which it ends.

This means that if a boat is built between Aug 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011 then the boat is a 2011 model year.

Model year has Changed: Effective model year 2019

"On February 8, 2016 Congress included a provision within the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 that moved the start of the recreational boat model year from August 1st to June 1st , extending through July 31st of the following year. This change allows for a 14-month model year window for recreational boats, and the definition of model year can now be found in Title 46 U.S. Code, Chapter 4302. "  USCG Boating Safety Circular #91 Dated Fall 2018

46 U.S. Code § 4302 - Regulations

Under this section, a model year for recreational vessels and associated equipment shall, except as provided in paragraph (2)—
begin on June 1 of a year and end on July 31 of the following year; and
be designated by the year in which it ends.
Upon the request of a recreational vessel manufacturer to which this chapter applies, the Secretary may alter a model year for a model of recreational vessel of the manufacturer and associated equipment, by no more than 6 months from the model year described in paragraph (1).

Do not designate a boat as a model year other than as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Then cops will come around and start asking nosy questions. Also the owner will have a difficult time insuring the boat. The agent will suspect some sort of fraud if the model year is significantly different from the year built.

Q. Where do I put the HIN?

On boats with transoms it goes in the upper right hand corner of the transom. On boats without transoms, that is, rounded sterns or pointed sterns (as in canoes), it goes to the right of center if you are facing the stern of the boat. It should be just a short ways down from the gunwale, no more than two inches. It must be at least one quarter inch high and (here comes the hard part) permanently affixed. What does permanent mean. Well, it's permanent until if comes off.

HIN Location HIN Location on a canoe

Let's get to the point. The whole reason for having this number is to identify who made the boat, when it was made, and what regulations apply. Also the HIN has become a very effective tool in detecting and recovering stolen boats. So, put it where it can be seen. There is nothing that baffles me more than why a manufacturer would put the HIN under a swim platform. How in the world do they expect anyone to read it there? No, put it where a boarding officer, boarding your boat at sea can read the HIN with relative ease, not at risk of life or limb.

Q. Is that the only number I have to put on the boat?

No. You must also put an identical HIN somewhere else on the boat in a less than obvious location. Don't hide it where no one will ever be able to find it. Put it under a seat, behind a removable panel, under an easily removed fitting. It's there so that the number can be compared to the one on the transom if the boat is suspected of being stolen, or if someone suspects that the HIN has been illegally altered. (No one would do that, would they? Don't count on it!) . This secondary HIN has to meet the same requirements as the first, 1/4 inch high or greater, and permanently affixed.

Q. So why do I need an HIN?

Every boat (that means any kind of boat) sold in the us (yes that includes imported boats) has to have an HIN. It's so you can track who you sold the boat to, and so the states can register the boats and know that they are not stolen.

Q. What does Certification Date mean?

When you put an HIN on a boat you are certifying (yes that means guaranteeing) that the boat meets all the standards that the law requires it to meet. That's why I said that the ninth and tenth characters are the certification date. Not really the date of manufacturer. This causes a lot of confusion among builders, dealers and the general public. That date can actually be from any time when you started building the boat until when you put it on the truck for delivery. For boats that are built in a short time, like production boats this can be as short as a day. For large yachts it can be more than a year.

Q.What if I build a boat for myself?

The state will assign the legitimate backyard boatbuilder an HIN when you register the boat. See State Boating Contacts.  This also applies if you build a boat for yourself, use it for a while and then sell it.  What matters is your intent when you built the boat. When you built it, did you build it for yourself?  For Example Oregon has a form certifying you built the boat yourself.

However, if you think you can build a few boats, sell them and just tell the owner to tell the state it was a backyard built boat, think again. You may get away with it for a while but eventually they will catch you. Those computers are programmed to catch these things. And why go to all that trouble? I costs you nothing to get a MIC and it saves you and your customers a lot of trouble.

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Q. Are there any other rules I have to follow?

Keeping Track of HINs:

The Coast Guard requires that you keep track of who you sold your boats to. This is so you can recall them if necesary. The easiest way to do that is to keep a list of the HINs and who bought it. It also is an easy way to track how many boats you have sold. If one ever gets stolen and a cop calls you looking for the location of the hidden HIN then you can easily cross reference it to the list of HINs, or if they have found a boat they can tell you the hin and you can tell them who bought it.

Q. Kit boats: Does this apply if I make Kit boats?

Kit boats are a backyard built boats, but kit boat manufacturers are still subject to the regulations. The law says a "recreational vessel manufacturer" is "a person engaged in the manufacturing construction, assembly or importation of recreational vessels, components, or associated equipment." This means that a kit boat manufacturer is subject to the same rules as any boat manufacturer and must obtain a MIC from the U.S. Coast Guard. They must assign Hull Identification Numbers and supply any required labels. Also they must supply instructions to the builder so that the boat is built in compliance with the regulations

Q. Can I change an HIN?: FAQs

Who would do such a thing?  Oddly enough, a lot of people do this.  The Federal Regulations say very specifically that you cannot alter an HIN once the boat has left the factory: Here's the words.

Sec. 181.35 Removal of numbers. No person may remove or alter a number required by this subpart unless authorized by the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

So where does it say I can't do it once it's left the factory?  In the original act, now in the US Code, it says that a boat must be in compliance when it is sold, offered for sale, or introduced into interstate commerce.  That has been interpreted to mean that as soon as that boat leaves the factory it is in interstate commerce.  From that point the HIN cannot be changed.  Here is the actual wording.

A person may not-- (1) manufacture, construct, assemble, sell or offer for sale, introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce, or import into the United States, a recreational vessel, associated equipment, or component of the vessel or equipment unless-- (A)(i) it conforms with this chapter or a regulation prescribed under this chapter

Q. What if I made a mistake?

 You can write, e-mail or phone the Coast Guard, explain the problem and ask for permission to make the change.   They will send you a letter which you should keep in your files, authorizing the change.

When will they not authorize it?  Almost never under any circumstances other than a bonifide mistake in putting the HIN on the boat.  Here are some examples that have arisen.

Q. A dealer has brand new unsold boats sitting in inventory from last year.  They look like this year's models in every respect except the HIN.   Can they change them?

A. NO.

Q. Can they send them back to the factory, have them upgraded to this years models, and the factory change the HIN?


Q.. A marine repairer or a builder has a boat that has seen a lot of wear and tear. They strip it down to a bare hull and replace everything. Can they put a new HIN on it?

A. NO. Putting new parts in it doesn't make it a new boat.

There are unscrupulous people who do change HINs.  This is a violation of Federal Regulations and they can be fined. How much? $2200.00 per violation. Each boat is a violation.

Don't do it.  If you think you have a valid reason call the Coast Guard and ask them. The phone numbers are at the top of this page.

Q. A 2006 boat has left the factory and is sitting on the dealer show room floor. A salesman looking at the HIN realizes that the last two digits in the HIN are 60 rather than 06. Change they change it?

A. Yes, but only after getting permission.

Here is an actual series of e-mails with names removed to protect the parties.

This took place in Nov, 2006

From: a Boat builder

I got your email from a prior time that you answered a USCG regulations question for me, I could not find another point of contact for the USCG regarding recreational boating.  My question for you today is what are the regulations regarding changing hull identification numbers?  I know according to sec. 181.35 numbers are not to be altered w/o consent of the Commandant.  What stipulations must be met to allow changes authorized by the Commandant?  Also, is there any truth to the statement that HIN numbers may be altered prior to the boat leaving the factory?  Any help that you can give me on this would be appreciated.



You're right.  Once assigned, a HIN cannot be changed without specific approval from the Commandant of the Coast Guard.  If you give me the details of the particular situation that you're asking about, I can give you my assessment of the likelihood of receiving approval, and tell you how to proceed.

 If a new (previously unsold, untitled, and not delivered to a dealer or buyer) boat in your factory is determined to have a HIN problem, you can change it; e.g. to correct a format problem.

Boat Builder

So here is the situation that I was referring to yesterday.  I think that I know the answer but I need to cover all the bases.  We have supplied a particular dealer with an over abundance of a certain model of boats.  In the last year they have not been able to sell any of these to consumers.  We have proposed to them that we would bring the boats back to factory and update/upgrade these boats to MY07 standards to help move the product (engines and trailers will stay the same as what is in the boats currently).  The dealership also wants us to change the HIN number to reflect the current model year to help in the process.  We have not agreed to change the HIN number as we interpret the USCG rules different than the dealership.  As I read the USCG regulations, this is not possible but I am obligated to this dealership to get a final ruling from the USCG.  Any clarification that you could give me would be appreciated.  Thanks for your help.


 You're right, again.   Once a boat leaves the factory we do not generally grant permission to change its HIN.  In no case would I expect to see a model year change request granted.  As one of my former colleagues used to say,  "Even if you replace every part in your 57 Chevy with a brand new part, it's still a 57 Chevy.

 Please feel free to contact me should you have further questions.

Q. What if I get a junk boat or an old used boat that has a sound hull and completely strip it out and install all new structure, electrical, engines, fuel systems and so on.  Can I put a new HIN on it or get a new home built boat HIN?

A. No.  It's not a new boat.  The HIN put on the boat when it was manufactured goes with it for the rest of it's life. Just because you put all new equipment in it, it's not a new boat. See the last paragraph of the Coast Guard quote above.

Q. What are Country Codes?

Country Codes: The International Standards Organization (ISO) has accepted the format of the US HIN except they have added two additional characters as a code for the country of origin. The code for the USA is US.  For Canada it is CA.

So the complete HIN would look like this: 

US - ABC12345L495

You must leave a space, a hyphen and a space between the Country Code and the 12 character HIN. Below is a Canadian HIN.

HIN On Transom

This is a link to the ISO Country Codes English country names and code elements

As of January 1, 2017 States will be required to check an HIN when the boat is registered to insure it is in the correct format: 
33CFR 174.16(b) As of January 1, 2017, before taking any action relating to a vessel imported or manufactured on or after November 1, 1972, the issuing authority must determine whether thevessel has a primary HIN meeting the requirements of 33 CFR Part 181, supart C.

This means state agencies when registering boats will check to make sure the HIN is correct, not only in format, but is the Manufacturers Identification Code correct for the boat. Does it match the name of  the manufacturer. With some imported boats the HIN is not a valid U.S. HIN. 

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