LITTLE ROCK – New state laws to match federal guidelines add an extra step to boat registration, but they may help prevent fraud or theft.
According to Act 694 of the 90th General Assembly of Arkansas passed in 2015, all boats registered in Arkansas must have verified proof of a valid hull identification number. This law is to comply with federal regulations mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Verification may be a legible printed photograph of the HIN plate with its number, or a legible pencil rubbing of the plate. The Arkansas Department of Finance has included letters explaining the process with all renewal notices issued since Jan. 1, 2017.
A boat’s HIN is identical to the vehicle identification number on cars and trucks – both mark the vehicle or vessel with a unique number that can help prevent fraud and theft. Unfortunately, a standardized system to collect these numbers was not in place in Arkansas until recently.
“We have roughly 200,000 registered boats in Arkansas,” said Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “When the DFA did a search in their database before the law went into effect, nearly 116,000 of those boats had either missing or incorrect HINs.”
With modern technology, why the “printed photograph or pencil rubbing”? Why not a digital copy?
Weatherington explained that the physical picture or rubbing will be left at the DFA office to be mailed in and attached to the file for that boat. Not all boat owners have access to modern technology to provide digital images and not all digital images will have a standard format for filing.
Owners of boats that do not have an HIN should contact Weatherington to work through the process of getting a new one issued. Using the boat’s make and year, she can track down the manufacturer and get a new number issued. If it is a homemade boat, she can issue a HIN after proper proof of construction.
“If it’s a remodel of an old hull, it still has to be looked up by that manufacturer, but in the rare case that it was built from the ground up by hand there are added requirements to issue the HIN,” Weatherington said. “According to Coast Guard regulations, invoices of materials used and photographs of the construction must be supplied for a homemade vessel.”
Weatherington warns that in some rare cases, a new HIN cannot be given because the vessel’s origin cannot be determined. This means that a new boat owner cannot register the boat.
“Two major things to look for when buying a boat are to make sure that HIN is on the outside of the back of the boat, right of the motor, and that the seller can give you a copy of their registration,” Weatherington said. “If those two requirements can’t be met, buyer beware.”
Contact Weatherington with any questions regarding boat registration in Arkansas, 501-223-6379.