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Extra step in boat registration helps prevent fraud, theft

BY Randy Zellers

ON 02-14-2018


Feb. 14, 2018

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK – Renewing the registration for your boat or registering your boat for the first time now includes an extra step, one that’s intended to prevent fraud or theft. 

The 90th General Assembly of Arkansas passed Act 694 in 2015 to comply with federal regulations mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The law requires all boats registered in Arkansas to have verified proof of a valid hull identification number. Verification may be a legible pencil rubbing or a legible printed photograph of the number. The law was given an effective date of Jan. 1, 2017, to allow the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration time to mail a letter explaining the process with all renewal notices issued.

The purpose of 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 was not in place in Arkansas to collect these numbers, hindering that purpose.

“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.”

Weatherington has received many calls about the specifics of the law, including the seemingly outdated “pencil rubbing or printed photograph” requirement. With modern technology why wouldn’t showing a digital copy work?

“The physical image or rubbing is supposed to be attached to the file at the DFA,” Weatherington said.

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.

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