Hull Identification Number (HIN)

hin number on boat

What is the HIN Number on a Boat?

A HIN number (Hull Identification Number) is a unique 12-character identification code that is assigned to a boat or vessel. The HIN number is the boat’s identifier and can be used for various purposes – including registration, insurance, and theft prevention. It is usually located on the transom or hull of the boat and must be visible. HIN numbers are required by law for all boats manufactured or imported since November 1, 1972.

What is HIN Needed For?

Hull serial number is a government requirement, similar to a vehicle’s VIN. All vessels, including inflatable boats, must have it. The Hull number on a boat does not match the State registration number (which is marked on the boat’s bow). Boat’s serial number must be specified in the State certificate of registration. Its main task is to ensure safety: with its help, each vessel is unique and easily identifiable. All boats sold in our Navigator store have unique HIN serial numbers.

Where is HIN Located?

The manufacturer places two identical HIN at least a quarter of an inch high on the hull of each boat. The Main Hull identification number location is on the starboard side of the transom within two inches of the top of the transom, gunwale, or hull-to-deck connection (whichever is lower). If the dinghy is not designed to transport, HIN is affixed to the starboard outboard side of the hull, aft within one foot of the stern and within two inches of the top of the hull side, gunwale, or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest. The Hull serial number location on catamarans and pontoons is on the stern rail up to 1 foot from the starboard hull anchorage.

HIN Structure – What Do These Symbols Mean?

Inflatable Boat Hull Identification Number Structure

The province/state standard defines the HIN format. The first three characters are the Manufacturer Identification Code assigned by the Coast Guard. The manufacturer assigns the next five numbers (hull serial numbers) from the fourth to the eighth. The last four characters indicate the month, and year the boat was built (two), and the model year (another two). The months of the issue are marked with letters in a certain sequence:


A. January

B. February

C. March

D. April

E. May

F. June

G. July

H. August

I. September

J. October

K. November

L. December

HIN Marking Changes After August 1, 1984

After August 1, 1984, there were several changes to the HIN marking. First of all, a new order of placement of characters in HIN was introduced.

Also, boats manufactured or imported after this date have a duplicate of the main HIN in a hidden location inside the boat. This can be useful in case of hijacking or damage to the vessel.

How to Get a HIN Number for a Boat?

To get a HIN number for a boat, you will need to follow a few steps:

  1. Fill out an application form at the US Coast Guard or Transport Canada website. The form will require information about the boat, such as model and year of manufacture. 
  2. Provide proof of ownership – a bill of sale or registration certificate. 
  3. Then, you will be issued a 12-character HIN number. The HIN number should be engraved, stamped, or affixed with a permanent adhesive to your boat.

Hull Serial Number Lookup – How to Find?

If you need a boat serial number lookup, the Coast Guard maintains a searchable MIC database. By entering the manufacturer’s code (the first three characters) – you can get the name of the manufacturer and its location.
Please note that it is illegal to change or delete a HIN without the written permission of the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Navigator shop sells only boats with original HIN.

Legalization For “Backyard Boat Builders”

Those who build their own boats for personal use and not for sale must also obtain a HIN from their State boating agency. This number will consist of the state abbreviation followed by the letter Z.

What About the State Registration Number?

Not all boats require state registration. However, certain government requirements determine which boats need a State registration number. Please read about the list of these requirements and how to get the State registration number in our next article.

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