Outdoor recreation can play a vital role in protecting our natural resources. When you register your boat, you do your part in sustaining resources that promote safe and responsible use of our nation's waters. Your registration dollars also help pay for marinas, boat ramps, lake clean up and much more.

District of Columbia Harbor Patrol, Metropolitan Police Department:

The Harbor Patrol, Metropolitan Police Department is responsible for regulating the state boating laws in the District of Columbia.


All vessels principally used on District of Columbia waters must be registered with the District of Columbia Harbor Master, MPD.This includes canoes, kayaks, inflatables, personal watercraft,sail, powered, USCG documented, recreational and commercial boats.Boat owners may operate a vessel up to 30 days with a current out of state registration or notarized bill of sale aboard. Proof of ownership must be provided with the application, a title fee of $2.00, applicable tax and registration fees payable by check or money order only.

Registration is complete when the owner receives decals and a registration card. The original registration card must be on board whenever the boat is in use. The registration and decals are only valid for the year issued and will expire December 31st every year.


Boat owners must keep their Certificate of Ownership in a safe place. 
NOTE On the reverse of the Certificate of Ownership there is an application for the transfer of ownership. 


A Certificate of Number is assigned and a Title and registration issued. USCG vessels will not receive a title but will need a current Certificate of Documentation, DC registration card and decal. This Certificate of Number is invalid 50 days after the date the vessel is no longer principally used on District of Columbia waters. The owner must notify the Harbor Master within 5 days if there is a change in legal ownership of the vessel. The Harbor Master must be notified within 15 days of a change of address.

If you lose or destroy your certificate of title, registration card or decals you must apply for a duplicate and submit a processing fee.

Successful registration results in a Certificate of Title,assignment of boat numbers and a decal. Your registration MUST be kept on board the vessel at all times. (It is advisable to keep the registration in a dry-bag on board.) Boat numbers must:

  • be affixed on both sides of the bow
  • be block letters, three inches high and contrasting with the color of your boat
  • letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or a hyphen



For example: DC-1234-A or DC1234 A. This is a federal and state requirement. 
Lack of the correct documentation can result in delays and fines.

Make sure all boats are properly marked and documented. It's important to keep your papers with the boat - be particularly aware when transferring ownership of your vessel. Never carry your title with you on the water; carrying a copy is a good idea.

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