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 by the USCG and these three identify the manufacturer or importer. Get the three characters from 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 in business..
B. With a 15 character HIN, the first two characters (optional) identify the country of build. ie. FR indicates France. These two characters are separated from the balance of the code with a dash and this is counted as a character. This has some importance if you are importing a boat across the USA/Canadian border in 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 for clarity.
D. The characters must be at least 1/4" high.
E. If additional information is displayed within 2" of the HIN, that information must be separated from the HIN by means of borders, or must be on a separate label so that it will not be interpretated as part of the HIN.
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 of manufacture or assembly or is imported into the US for 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. AThis is meant for law enforcement use only although as a surveyor I have been provided this information by a couple of manufacturers.
2. Interpreting the four HIN versions

Version A. " Straight Year Format ". 12 characters. In use from November 1, 1972 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 shown 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 " and running in sequence to " L " indicating December.

Year of Build. In this case 1993.

Model Year. Often a year later than the "Year of Build".

VERSION D. " New Format " with optional country code making it 15 characters.

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 the HIN. Some like Doral and Hunter have been especially helpful to me and Sea Ray has been exceptionally helpful. Sea Ray once spent over an hour on the phone with me to track down a tampered HIN (turned out to be a stolen boat). Others like Beneteau are less than useless. I was involved with one case where Beneteau charged a client to prove the provenance of a boat on which they had 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. Stolen boats frequently have the codes changed. Sometimes boats from Non-NAFTA countries have the codes changed to avoid duties or codes were changed by builders to make old stock appear newer ( I have witnesssed this with the same boat three years in a row at the Toronto Boat Show). A few dealers have been caught changing codes on boats in their showrooms for the same reason.

Changes to the system over the years that has resulted in four different versions has also caused confusion.

Until April of 2006 our Canadian government did not even ask for the HIN to get a boat licensed or Registered and to this day it says right on the license application that they will issue a license without an HIN. Can you imagine them doing that with car 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 than expert hands. The marine surveyor (me) had no idea who did it so raises a red flag and almost shuts down a sale. Note the three different mould lines ( numbered 1,2 and 3 ) from the original moulding and two subsequent patches. in this case it turned out that Beneteau had screwed up the code right in the factory, twice ? but they still charged the owner $75.00 to provide a letter explaining the discrepancy and even then it took weeks 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 know it had to be in a certain format. Sea Ray to their credit spent a long time on the phone with me and eventually traced the boat because it had been ordered with the VHF 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 and does not use the assigned C&C MIC.

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 vessel name.
Another US Documentation database - This one is from NOAA
Need a marine surveyor in Ontario... See this list of Every Marine Surveyor in Ontario