Coast Guard Vessel Transaction


This article is Part 3 in a multi-part series detailing innovative data sets available via Nlets, The International Justice and Public Safety Network. Discussed here: Coast Guard Vessel Transaction.

About the USCG
For more than two centuries, the U.S. Coast Guard has safeguarded our nation’s maritime interests in the heartland, in the ports, at sea and around the globe. It protects the maritime economy and the environment, defends our maritime borders and saves those in peril. Today’s U.S. Coast Guard, with nearly 42,000 men and women on active duty, is a unique force that carries out an array of civil and military responsibilities, touching almost every facet of the U.S. maritime environment.

The purpose of the Coast Guard Vessel registration Nlets transaction is to provide access to boat registration information via U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Number.

The Nlets Transaction
Nlets formats the transactions, queries the Coast Guard’s Vessel Identification System (VIS) and returns the result. The query, designated “BQ,” will search VIS and return a result message, called “BR.” The results of the query will vary depending on whether the requesting state has a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Coast Guard regarding exchange of state vessel data via VIS. If so, the answer will contain any information in VIS, as well as Coast Guard information. If not, the response will contain only data on Coast Guard documented vessels.

Nlets Coast Guard representative Donald Johnson states, “Although the Coast Guard Vessel has MOAs with 25 states and 6 territories, all states bordering a waterway should consider using this valuable resource.”

The BQ requires the following information:

  • Valid, nine-character, sending ORI (Originating Routing Indicator); 
  • Two-character destination ORI of “CG”; and
  • Coast Guard or state vessel number or vessel name. ( Note:  Using Vessel Name may return a large number of results.)   

The response (BR) may include any or all of the following data elements:

  • Vessel name;
  • Registration number;
  • Build year;
  • Length in feet;
  • Vessel use;
  • Hull ID;
  • Hull type;
  • Owner name with address, city, state and ZIP; 
  • Other information is available, but is pending future development with Nlets.   

Nlets supports this transaction in legacy text, as well as in XML.

Requests from local agencies interested in using the Coast Guard Vessel message key must be reviewed by the Nlets state representative. Please direct all requests and questions to


Chelsea S. Keefer is a document specialist with Nlets, based in Phoenix.


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