The BoatUS Consumer Protection Department is advising boaters with vessels that have a Coast Guard certificate of documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by U.S. mail offering renewal.
BoatUS said an increasing number of its members have complained that the letters direct them to websites that could be mistaken for the actual Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center in Falling Waters, W.Va., and appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew Coast Guard documentation.
BoatUS said that although the Coast Guard sends official annual renewal notices by U.S. mail, other notices that members are receiving are not from the Coast Guard, but from third-party companies whose name or return address might appear similar to that of the official Coast Guard documentation center.
Group members say the letters look like “real” Coast Guard communications. Examples that some members have forwarded to BoatUS do not have disclaimers noting that they are not official Coast Guard correspondence.
Although third-party companies can legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, BoatUS said the Coast Guard’s own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price, $26, is often much lower than what third-party services may charge.
Renewals can be made by going to the documentation center’s website at www.uscg.mil/nvdc and clicking on “instructions and forms.”