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USCG Announces Vessel Documentation Centralization Site

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announced that its centralized Federal Reserve Documentation Program will be located in Martinsburg, W.Va., at the agency's Operation Systems Center. The USCG expects to complete the consolidation during the last quarter of FY 95.

The centralization will culminate in a process begun in 1983 when the USCG reduced the number of vessel documentation offices nationwide from more than 100 to 15. It increases efficiency, reduces overhead costs and allows the implementation of new technology t h a t improves commercial and recreational customer service. Vessel documentation is a form of national registration for vessels which serves to establish a vessel's nationality and qualification to be employed in specified trades, such as fisheries or coastwise service.

The federal program has existed from the days of the First Congress of the U.S. and was developed to ensure unencumbered interstate and international commerce. Today the Vessel Documentation Program also operates a document recording function which provides evidence of vessel ownership, mortgages and liens. Annually, some 130 vessel document personnel conduct 240,000 transactions for approximately 180,000 U.S.-flag vessels.

On Jan. 1, 1994, the USCG modified applicable federal regulations relating to vessel documentation in order to simplify the application process.

Applicants are no longer required to appear at a documentation office to take an oath or fill out paperwork. Instead, the application and renewal process can be completed by mail and the number of forms required to document a vessel has been reduced significantly.

The centralized Vessel Documentation Office will permit the USCG to develop the capability to accept electronic application filings and implement file tracking systems using computer-generated bar codes.

In the near future, members of the maritime community and the public will deal with one office only. This will reduce the inefficiency caused when vessel files are mailed from one location to another.

For more information contact Coast Guard Public Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Commandant (G-CP-2), 2100 Second Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20593-0001 or call (202) 267- 0931.

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