Rhode Island Boat Registration


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Rhode Island Boat Registration Summary

Rhode Island boat registration summary is a free resource designed to inform the boating public about registration requirements, recording methods, and title search guidelines for the State of Rhode Island. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular state. Simply click on the "Wiki-Share" link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.

This information is subject to change and should be confirmed with the respective agency.

Comments - Suggestions - Revisions ....  Wiki-Share

State of Rhode Island

State of Rhode Island
Department of Environmental Management
Division of Registration and Licensing.
Boat Registration Website

Registration Overview

Rhode Island issues both title and registration certificates for non-exempt boats. These are administered by the Department of Environmental Management. This state registers outboard motors but does not issue titles. Registration is required on all boat trailers in Rhode Island. Titling is required on all 1973 and later year models weighing over 3,000 lbs. There are approximately 38,406 boats registered in the State of Rhode Island. This accounts for 0.3% of all nationwide registrations.

Registration Requirements

All non-exempt boats over 13' must be registered in the state of Rhode Island. Coast Guard documented vessels must also be registered. Exemptions include lifeboats, vessels used only for racing, rowboats less than 12 feet long, and a canoe or kayak. Visit the Division of Registration and Licensing website for a complete list of requirements and exceptions. Rhode Island does not have provisions for registering abandoned boats. In this case, it will be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management must be notified within 15 days regarding a change of address, transfer of interest or if the vessel was abandoned, destroyed, or stolen.

Marking Requirements

Boat registration numbers in Rhode Island begin with an "RI" designation which is followed by four numbers and then two letters. These must be displayed on all non-documented boats along with registration sticker tabs. Coast Guard documented vessels may not display the state registration numbers. However they must display the state registration tabs, an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. An official documentation number must also be affixed to a visible interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull. All vessels manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. Owners with older boats may apply with the Marine Police Division for a hull number assignment. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "RIZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. A Rhode Island law enforcement official must inspect the boat if there is a discrepancy in the hull identification number.

Ownership and Liens

Rhode Island issues titles for non-exempt boats. Secured liens will accordingly be shown on the certificate of title. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, recorded as UCC filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk's office. There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against registered boats which are not USCG documented. If the vessel is USCG documented, a security interest is perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center with the earliest submissions taking priority. Other lien claims can be filed in the same manner although these function as notifications only. All such filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.

Boat Title Searches

Boat title records in Rhode Island are maintained by the Department of Environmental Management. This agency facilitates an online registration search lookup, but it requires the owner's last name, date of birth, and a registration number. Record print-outs may be otherwise obtained by submitting a boat record request form. It is also reported that the registration office will confirm hull identification numbers or provide telephone verifications on title and registration certificates in hand. Security interests in non-titled and non-documented boats are filed with the Department of State as Uniform Commercial Code recordings. Online UCC searches are available from their web site or by using a public record vendor. State and Federal tax liens on boats are not always recorded in a consistent manner and are therefore difficult to identify. They may show up as a red flag on state registration records, as UCC filings, in state revenue records, in a county clerks records, or on a vessel's abstract of title for documented boats. Given these disparities, it may be worth obtaining the services of a public record vendor that has access to a broad range of personal property lien recordings. Ownership, mortgage, and lien search recordings for USCG documented vessels can be obtained by ordering an abstract of title and a copy of the certificate of documentation from the National Vessel Documentation Center. However, these are encoded and can be difficult to interpret, especially on older vessels with numerous recordings. It may be worthwhile to contact a professional vessel title company for assistance in this regard. Non-recorded maritime liens may also be a factor when conducting boat title research in Rhode Island. These include liabilities for items such as services, equipment, fuel, storage, parts, supplies, and damages which can become attached to the boat itself regardless of ownership. One of the most useful tools for doing this kind of research is our premier boat history search database. It is a gathering of eight nationwide databases into a single interface which can be searched by numerous criteria. These include records for stolen boats, marine lien claims, boating accidents, pollution incidents, auctioned boats, factory recalls, and documented vessels. Yacht brokers, documentation companies, and attorneys do not warrant or guarantee titles. It is therefore incumbent on the owner to stand behind any such representations. Of course it will be of no consolation if a guarantor is insolvent, non-cooperative, or can not be located. This calls for a thorough background check to ensure the owner's wherewithal for making good on any hidden liens or title deficiencies.


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