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Hull Identification Number (HIN)

What is a Hull Identification Number (HIN)?

Hull Identification Tag

The Hull Identification Number (Hull ID or HIN) is a serial number assigned by the manufacturer that uniquely identifies a boat, similar to the VIN on an automobile. Hull ID numbers distinguish one vessel from another and help prevent theft. Vessels build on or after November 1, 1972 should have a unique 12-character HIN and should meet one of the approved US Coast Guard formats. Vessels built before November 1, 1972 may have a non-standardized Hull ID format.

The HIN is found on a metal or plastic plate, typically on the transom of the boat, usually on the right starboard (right) side of the transom within two inches of the top of transom, gunwale or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest. On vessels without transoms or impractical to use transoms, the HIN is usually affixed to the starboard (right) outboard side of 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. On catamarans and pontoon boats with replaceable hulls, the HIN is usually affixed to the aft crossbeam, within one foot of the starboard (right) hull attachment.

Hull ID assignment

All vessels built on or after November 1, 1972 must bear a Hull ID that meets one of the approved Coast Guard formats. If the vessel does not have a Hull ID that meets an approved Coast Guard format, the owner must be assigned a new Hull ID number by the Department. An owner assigned a new Hull ID must permanently affix the new Hull ID number to the vessel. Vessels built before November 1, 1972 may keep the non-standard Hull ID only if it is unique to the Wisconsin registration system. If the Hull ID is not unique, the owner must be assigned a new Hull ID number. An owner assigned a new Hull ID will be notified by the Department and will be provided instructions on how to permanently affix the new Hull ID to the vessel in accordance with law. The State assigned Hull ID is 12 characters beginning with WSZ.

How to permanently affix State assigned Hull Identification Number (HIN) to my boat?

State and Federal regulations require you to permanently affix this number in two places. The primary hull identification number in watercraft with transoms shall be affixed to the starboard outboard side within 2 inches of the top of transom, gunwale, or hull deck joint, whichever is lowest. On vessels without transoms or impractical to use transom, to the starboard outboard side of hull, aft, within one foot of the stern and within 2 inches of the top of the hull side, gunwale or hull deck joint, whichever is lowest. On catamarans and pontoon boats with replaceable hulls, affix the hull identification number to the aft crossbeam, within 1 foot of the starboard hull attachment. Do not alter existing Hull ID numbers; newly assigned numbers by the Department should be attached above existing Hull ID number.

The duplicate hull identification number shall be affixed in an unexposed location on the interior of the vessel or beneath a fitting or item of hardware.

  • Each hull identification number must be carved, burned, stamped, embossed, molded, bonded, or otherwise permanently affixed to the watercraft so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious.
  • Use of a plate must be fastened so that removal would cause scarring or damage to surrounding hull area.
  • Hull identification number characters must be no less than 1/4 inch in height and not attached to any removable part.
Last revised: Thursday October 10 2019