USA Sailors: a warning about renewing USCG documentation early via Pay.Gov

The USCG National Vessel Documentation Center is implementing a new automated online system for filing vessel documentation and renewals, but the system still has a number of flaws to work out before all is smooth sailing. Maryanne Webb explains how she lost time by renewing early.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Dear fellow US Sailors,

(Copying to SSCA, Noonsite, Practical Sailor, Pacific PuddleJump group.)

Our US Registered Sailboat Certificate Of Documentation expires at the end of August 2017. During June/July/August we were expecting to be in the South Pacific Islands and with little/poor access to the internet.  Rather than waiting for paperwork to catch up with me, and when I happened upon a WIFI signal in the Tuamotus, I decided to renew our certificate using the relatively new system available: PAY.GOV. I paid on 25th June 2017.

Since the payment process requires our boat registration number, it seemed obvious that the system would know which boat was being renewed, and what the expiry date of the current certificate would be, but just to be sure, I added this information as a note in the payment form (in the comment area provided) – making it clear I was expecting the renewal to give me a full year, and therefore expire at end August 2018.

However when the certificate finally arrived, and with no response or reference to our comment, we see the end date of our new certificate is not as expected, but two months early (end June 2018).

When I was able to establish this and find suitable internet again, I sent a fax to the USCG National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC), with copies of current and new certificate, and of the Pay.Gov receipt – asking them to correct the expiry date on the new certificate. I heard back from one of the Documentation officers today by email, the response is brief and basically says that the certificate stands as I “updated early” (i.e. the loss of two months certification is valid and will not be adjusted). A follow-up call with the same agent verified that renewing early will simply reset the start month of the new certificate – and therefore you will lose time.

Understanding that the option to renew is relatively new, this seems like a genuine defect in their system, and I fully expected that once this was brought to their attention it would be resolved. Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case. I will continue to reach out to them, but to save others a similar issue I’m sharing this warning. It is not clear to me exactly how early you can renew without losing time on the certificate. I can find no information that outlines the expected behavior of the system (but I have limited internet currently, so it could be out there).

If anyone is in a position to seek further information and some reason from PAY.GOV or the USCG NVDC, I’d appreciate it, as I’m sure would fellow sailors with the US flagged boats..

Maryanne Webb, SV Begonia

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