VIS Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Vessel Identification
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
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
- How much will VIS participation
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
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
- 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
- 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
Questions about VIS should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.