Port Credit Marine Surveys
& Yacht Delivery
Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors
American Boat & Yacht Council
|HIN / MIC translates as ...
"Hull Identification Number / Manufacturers Identification Code
|1. What are HIN's
The HIN/MIC usually referred to as the HIN has been required on all boats manufactured or imported into the USA since November 1, 1972. In 1981 Transport Canada agreed to piggyback on the US system and require the same on all Canadian vessels. Prior to 1981 Canadian builders may or may not have marked these codes on their boats depending on whether or not the boat was being exported to the USA. Europe now also follows this system (more or less when they feel like it).
There has been discussion over the last few years of moving to a 17 digit system like the VIN on your car but bureaucracy being what it is, it may not happen in our lifetime. A 17 digit system would provide a lot more information and be more easily traceable.
Each part of the code has some meaning and it's really pretty simple except that over the years the format has been modified so that there are four different versions out there now.
The rules for placement of the HIN's are also pretty simple although some manufacturers still struggle with these elementary instructions...........
|A.||In the case of the 12 character HIN, the
first three characters are assigned
USCG and these three identify the manufacturer
or importer. Get the three characters
your hull and you can search the USCG datbase for builder/importer contact
info and even check the Recalls Database to see if there are any active recalls on
file or get the mailing address of the importer
or builder and whether or not they are still
|B.||With a 15 character HIN, the first two characters
(optional) identify the country of
ie. FR indicates France. These two
are separated from the balance of the
with a dash and this is counted as
This has some importance if you are
a boat across the USA/Canadian border
either direction as they will be subject
to duty unless built in a NAFTA country.
|C.||There are no spaces allowed in the HIN. I
have inserted a few spaces in my diagrams
|D.||The characters must be at least 1/4"
|E.||If additional information is displayed within
2" of the HIN, that information
be separated from the HIN by means
or must be on a separate label so that
will not be interpretated as part of
|F.||The HIN must be marked on the upper starboard
transom or the upper starboard topsides,
aft, if the vessel has no transom.
|G.||The HIN must be marked in a fashion such
that tampering will deface the hull.
|H.||Date of manufacture must be no later than
the date the vessel leaves the place
or assembly or is imported into the
the purposes of sale.
|I.||As of August 1, 1984 manufacturers were required to mark an identical copy of the visible HIN in a hidden location in the vessel.|
|2. Interpreting the four HIN versions
|Version A. " Straight Year Format ".
12 characters. In use from November
to August 1984.
|A.||The first three characters may be alpha or
numeric and are assiged by the USCG. These
not only identify the manufacturer but what
plant the vessel was built in. except in
the case of imported boats. ie. On a vessel
imported from Taiwan the code will identify
the importer. in this case it is often impossible
to tell where the boat was built as these
importers come and go like a bad cold.
|B.||The next five characters may also be alpha
or numeric (except the letters I,O and Q)
and are at the discretion of the builder
as their own serial number.
|C.||The last four digits are a straight date
code for month and year the hull came out
of the mould, hence the descriptor
" Straight Year" version.
VERSION B. " Model Year Format ". 12 characters, also in use from November 1, 1972 to August 1984.
|A.||Same as " Straight Year " format.
|B.||Same as " Straight Year " format.
|C.||The " M " is a fixed character
indicating " Model Year Format "
and never changes.
|D.||These two characters indicate " model
year " and not necessarily year of build.
A model year of 73' and a month code of prior
to August of that year shows the vessel was
actually produced in 1972 for the 1973 model
year ( much the way many 2012 model cars
are actually produced in 2011 ).
|E.||This alpha character indicates month of production
as show in the key below.
|VERSION C. " New Format " 12 characters.
In use from August 1, 1984 to present.
|Same as others.
|Same as others.
|This alpha character shows the month of build
with January being " A "
in sequence to " L " indicating
|Year of Build. In this case 1993.
|Model Year. Often a year later than the "Year
|VERSION D. " New Format " with
optional country code making it 15
|This one is easy. It's tha same as version C but with an optional two character country pre-fix with a dash between it and the rest ( remember the dash counts as a character)). The CA tells us the boat was built in Canada. For a list of country codes see USCG.|
|A few of the manufacturers have kept pretty
good records and can give you a surprising
mount of information if you call with
HIN. Some like Doral and Hunter have
especially helpful to me and Sea Ray
been exceptionally helpful. Sea Ray
spent over an hour on the phone with
track down a tampered HIN (turned out
be a stolen boat). Others like Beneteau
less than useless. I was involved with
case where Beneteau charged a client
the provenance of a boat on which they
screwed up the HIN right in the factory
The usefulness of these codes has been diminished or complicated by a number of factors like ....
|For years builders ignored the rules and
made up whatever code pleased them.
boats frequently have the codes changed.
Sometimes boats from Non-NAFTA countries
have the codes changed to avoid duties
codes were changed by builders to make
stock appear newer ( I have witnesssed
with the same boat three years in a
the Toronto Boat Show). A few dealers
been caught changing codes on boats
showrooms for the same reason.
|Changes to the system over the years that
has resulted in four different versions
also caused confusion.
|Until April of 2006 our Canadian government
did not even ask for the HIN to get
licensed or Registered and to this
says right on the license application
they will issue a license without an
Can you imagine them doing that with
ownership forms !
|Extremely lax rules and/or enforcement of
those rules has allowed codes to be marked
by scraping into the gelcoat, etching, moulding
or little plastic plates glued or riveted
onto the transom, all with variable quality.
The Hidden HIN ( if ever fitted ) may be
hand written in faded magic marker or pencil
written on a piece of paper under some resin
or a host of other methods. Again this would
not be permitted in the auto industry. Why
the difference ?
|The boat buying public is willing to put
up with this nonsense, that's why.
|Despite all the problems with HIN's, other
than trying to trace the engine serial numbers
it's pretty much all you have so it may pay
to understand what you are looking at.
|Beneteau Bogus HIN/MIC :
|The HIN/MIC shown below has been tampered
with at least twice and done by less
expert hands. The marine surveyor (me)
no idea who did it so raises a red
almost shuts down a sale. Note the
different mould lines ( numbered 1,2
3 ) from the original moulding and
patches. in this case it turned out
Beneteau had screwed up the code right
the factory, twice ? but they still
the owner $75.00 to provide a letter
the discrepancy and even then it took
of harrasment to get any action.
Above - The suffix, after the dash is not supposed to be there and the code has only 11 characters rather than 12.
If this boat had been built in France it would have " FR- " prefix.
|Beneteau Correct HIN/MIC :
|Above - A moulded HIN on a US built Beneteau
normally looks like.
This correct 12 didgit code without a pre-fix shows that the boat was built in Marion SC in April 1998 for the 1998 model year.
Above - An etched 15 digit code on a French built Beneteau normally looks like this.
This correct 15 digit code show the boat was built in france in June 2001 for the 2002 model year.
|Sea Ray Bogus HIN/MIC :
|The guy who stole this Sea Ray knew enough
to change the code but not enough to
it had to be in a certain format. Sea
to their credit spent a long time on
phone with me and eventually traced
because it had been ordered with the
in a non-standard location.
This faked 12 character code suggests the boat was built in March 1992 for the 1998 model year !
This turned out to be a stolen boat and the buyer lost all his money when the police seized it.
|Sea Ray Correct HIN/MIC :
This genuine Sea ray 12 character code shows the boat was built in October 1985 for the 1986 model year.
If you look carefully just below the code you can just make out another line of characters, this is part of Sea Ray's own ID
system and unlike Beneteau is on a separate line.as required.
|C&C Bogus HIN/MIC :
This one is from a C&C 27, has sixteen characters and follows no known format.
|C&C Correct format HIN/MIC :
A correct C&C " Straight Year " format showing the vessel was built in August 1975 for the 1976 model year.
A correct C&C HIN in the " Model Year " format showing a build date of March 1984 for the 1984 model year.
|Other info .....
|USCG Recalls Database - Find out is there has been a recall of your boat using your HIN.|
|USCG HIN Database - Track down the builder or importer using your HIN.|
|Transport Canada Ships Registry - Want to register your boat by name ?|
|Transport Canada Ships Registry - Find the owner of a registered vessel using the name of the vessel.|
|Services Canada - How to get a license for your boat.|
|USCG Documentation database - Find some history on your boat usiing
HIN's, Documentation number and or
Another US Documentation database - This one is from NOAA
|Need a marine surveyor in Ontario... See
this list of Every Marine Surveyor in Ontario