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VIS Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the Vessel Identification Systems (VIS)?
    VIS is the Vessel Identification System. The data for VIS consists of registration and ownership data from participating VIS States and USCG National Vessel Documentation Center. VIS data will only be accessible to Numbering and Titling, Registration and Law Enforcement personnel of VIS participating States and Federal Agencies.

  • What are the benefits of participating in VIS?
    States who participate in VIS will have access to boat registration and ownership data from other States and USCG Documented vessels in a single database. Access to this data will help identify vessel ownership history, State registered vessels that change registration to other States, and changes in law enforcement status for vessels. 

  • How much will VIS participation cost?
    There are no fees or payments required to participate in VIS, however participating States must bear any costs related to extracting data from their information system and transmitting that data to the Coast Guard or its designee. Participating States must also provide their own computer equipment and data connections necessary to access the web based VIS. 

  • Does VIS participation prevent my State from charging the VIS contractor for vessel data?
    Per the upcoming VIS Memorandum of Agreement between the USCG and States. States can not charge the USCG to provide data for the sole use in VIS. If the state allows the data to be used beyond the sole use of VIS (commercial purposes), then your State can charge VIS contractor the same amount they would charge other commercial vendors for the same data.

  • How is VIS different from NCIC and NLETS?
    NLETS provides law enforcement personnel access to law enforcement data from other State and Federal law enforcement data in the NCIC. Some States make boat registration data available via NLETS; however state participation is limited. CG Documented vessel ownership information is not currently available via NLETS, although some vessel descriptive information is available from CGMIX. Because NLETS is limited to law enforcement personnel, State registration and titling personnel may not have access to that system. VIS will contain vessel descriptive information and ownership data for CG Documented vessels and most States numbered vessels. This provides a single database to look for ownership information even if the state of registration is unknown. State registration and titling personnel will have access to VIS and VIS data will be available to law enforcement personnel from participating States via NLETS

  • Can my State participate in VIS if my State boating registration system does not collect all the data elements required under 33 C.F.R. 187?
    Yes, the USCG understands some State systems do not capture all data elements required under 33 C.F.R. 187 for participation in VIS and has initiated a regulatory change proposal which will give the Commandant authority to grant VIS participation waivers to States whose registration systems do not collect all data elements required under 33 C.F.R. 187. However, waivers will not be granted automatically. Waivers shall be granted only when sufficient data elements are provided to meet the minimum needs of VIS and the Commandant determines a waiver is in the best interest of the system.

    States who need a waiver before the regulatory language is changed may sign the MOA and will be granted access to VIS but the State will not be not be listed as a “participating state” until the regulatory amendment granting case-by-case waiver authority is completed.

  • Do we need to modify our State registration database to capture the data elements required under 33 C.F.R. 187?
    No. States are not mandated to modify their current systems to participate in VIS if they can provide sufficient data elements to meet the needs of the system. VIS will accept data elements from your system in your current format and to the extent they are available in your database. The Coast Guard or its designee is responsible for transforming State data into a consistent VIS format so that all States can reap the benefit of the data.

    The Coast Guard encourages States whose systems do not currently capture all data elements listed under 33 C.F.R. 187 to upgrade their system to capture those data elements at the next available opportunity. States that apply for State Titling Certification under 33 C.F.R. 187.301 will not be granted waivers from the data element requirements.

  • What are the data uses and privacy restrictions of VIS data?
    VIS data use will be restricted in accordance with State and Federal laws. Primary use of VIS data is for state numbering and titling, law enforcement and homeland security purposes. States must determine whether they want to restrict use of their data to only VIS use or whether data elements may be used by the Coast Guard designee for other purposes in accordance with State law. If States allow other uses of their data, they must establish a separate agreement with the Coast Guard designee.

  • Why is there a disclaimer regarding "restricted to VIS use only" in the MOA if VIS data is only used for State Numbering and Law Enforcement?
    Many States currently provide data to commercial vendors for marketing and other purposes not related to VIS. The VIS contract does not void or supersede current agreements between the States and those commercial vendors. Doing so would adversely impact the business of the Coast Guard VIS contractor who collects and sells data in the course of its business.

    The disclaimer assures States who provide the additional VIS data elements that would otherwise not be provided to a commercial vendor because of privacy laws that they can designate those elements as ”FOR VIS USE ONLY” and thereby restrict the VIS contractor from using those data elements for any purpose other than VIS.

  • Who should I contact with questions about VIS?
    Questions about VIS should be sent to ervin.d.boyd@uscg.mil.
Last Update:
Monday, April 24, 2017
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