Registering and Numbering Your Vessel



All undocumented vessels, with few exceptions, must be registered with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which assigns a separate registration number to each vessel. This number is used for search and rescue, safety control, and theft prevention. Boat owners, therefore, affix the registration number on each side of he hull with great care to assure it is legible.

Proper number display is the responsibility of both the boat owner and the boat operator.


Exceptions to the registration requirement may include boats that are manually propelled, eight (8) feet or less in length and propelled solely by sail, certain public vessels, documented (federally registered) vessels, foreign vessels and vessels from another State in Hawaii’s waters for 60 days or less, a ship’s lifeboats used solely for lifesaving purposes. Owners of undocumented vessels vessel may apply for a registration number even if the boat is exempt from Hawaii’s numbering requirements.


Boaters may register their vessels for the first time and transfer registration at any DOBOR District Office and at the DOBOR Administrative Office in Honolulu. Boaters may also renew registration by using the renewal cards sent by DOBOR through the mail or on-line at Fees are determined by the vessel’s length. The Certificate of Number is good for one year and may be renewed any time without penalty up to 90 days preceding the expiration date. If a registration card is stolen or lost or mutilated, the owner shall notify DOBOR within seven days. A fee of $5 is charged for duplicate documents and stickers.


Proof of ownership must be provided when registering or transferring a vessel. A certificate of sale, a properly endorsed title document that indicates the vessel was registered and issued a title by another state, or (if neither of the aforementioned is appropriate) an affidavit by the applicant that supports his/her claim of ownership.


If a registration card is stolen or lost or mutilated, the owner shall notify DOBOR within seven days. A fee of $5 is charged for duplicate documents and stickers. DOBOR must also be notified if there is a change in address of the owner(s), the vessel is abandoned, the vessel is a total loss or it is destroyed, if all interest or part interest in a vessel is transferred to another person or entity, if the vessel is permanently removed from the State or the vessel becomes documented by the USCG. If your vessel is stolen, call the police immediately. A stolen vessel report must be filed with DOBOR.


The manufacturer’s HIN is used on vessel documents. It consists of 12 digits. If the HIN on a vessel has been removed, obliterated or if the vessel is home built, DOBOR will assign it a permanent HIN. After January 1,1967 no vessel may be sold or offered for sale in Hawaii unless it has a HIN.


  • Boat registration numbers must be painted on or permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel and must be read from left to right. The number shall not be placed on the obscure underside of a flared bow where the angle prevents it from being seen from another vessel or from the shore.
  • The four numerals appearing between letters must be separated by hyphens or spaces equal to the width of any letter except “I”.
  • Stickers showing current registration must be placed on each side of the vessel 3 inches aft of the number and directly in line with it.
  • The numbers and letters must be at least 3 inches in height and of block character.
  • They must be of a color which will contrast with the color of the background.
  • The numbers must be so maintained as to be clearly visible and legible. (If your number is properly displayed it will be clearly legible at a distance of 100 feet).
  • No other numerals, letters, or devices may be placed near the State number.



  • Disregard outlining or shading in determining height or color contrast. Use letters and numbers of a solid color.
  • Avoid shaded numbers. Slanted or script numbers do not meet Coast Guard standards.
  • Use colors that furnish the greatest contrast between numbers and background. The best results are achieved by a very dark color on a light background, or vice versa.
  • When a backing plate of a different color than the hull is used, be certain the plate extends far enough beyond the number to provide sufficient background for contrast.


  • Registration stickers should always be applied to a clean, dry surface and pressed firmly in place.
  • To help secure the stickers, clear plastic spray may be used to cover them.
  • Protection of stickers may present a problem when refinishing your boat. Following are methods of addressing this problem:
  • Mount the sticker on a removable backing plate. The backing plate can be secured to the hull and removed as necessary.
  • Stickers may be removed by applying sufficient heat to loosen the adhesive, and reapplied with marine-type glue if not damaged. The chances of damaging the stickers are HIGH regardless of method of removal.
  • Paint around the stickers carefully. If masking tape is used to cover them, it should be removed as soon after painting as possible.
  • If paint gets on the sticker, care should be used in removing it. Some materials, such as carbon tetrachloride, paint remover, or paint thinner will deface the sticker, especially if applied with a hard rubbing motion.