New hull identification number requirements

Submitted by the San Juan County Auditor

With the weather finally warming, boaters are polishing their rails, shaking out their sheets, checking their zincs, and getting ready to hit the water. A part of that spring ritual is renewing vehicle registrations. All vehicle registrations in Washington expire on June 30, and no one wants to be caught without a current decal on the Fourth of July.

There’s a new wrinkle in that annual ritual, though. The Coast Guard is beginning to enforce new federal standards for Hull Identification Numbers. About 19,000 Washington boaters have been sent letters advising them that their HIN will change. The U.S. Coast Guard is making these changes to:

  • Improve boating safety efforts.
  • Enhance law enforcement capabilities.
  • Promote the U.S. Coast Guard’s strategic goals of maritime safety and security.

The vast majority of vessels registered in Washington have HIN numbers that comply with the new standards. If your vessel’s HIN does not comply, the Washington Department of Licensing should have sent you a letter in late March with instructions. Individuals who received this notification will not be able to register, renew or title a vessel until the HIN is updated. A vessel with a noncompliant HIN cannot be renewed online. Vessel owners with compliant HINs can renew normally, either online or in person at the County Auditor’s office at the courthouse in Friday Harbor.

If you did get a letter, you must visit the auditor’s office or another vehicle licensing office to renew your registration. The office will generate a HIN that is compliant with the new standards and order you a new certificate of ownership, or title. There are no fees for making the change if the title transaction is due solely to issuing a compliant HIN.

It is possible that you received a letter, but your HIN does not match the one stated in the letter. If that is the case, bring a photo or rubbing of the current HIN to the vehicle licensing oOffice, and your record will be updated.

If you are issued a new HIN, you will need to update the HIN number on your vessel to comply with the new Coast Guard requirements. Under these new requirements, two identical HINs must be permanently affixed to a vessel with a nonconforming HIN. It is recommended that the original HIN not be removed, covered up, or otherwise defaced. The new HIN should be applied adjacent to the original HIN. You must use methods (such as decals, engraved plates, embossing) that permanently fix the HIN to the vessel. These instructions are included in the letter received by vessel owners who will have to update their HINs.

If you have any questions, visit, contact the DOL customer service center at 902-3770 or, or call the auditor’s office at 378-2161.