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International HIN Formats For Recreational Boats & Vessels

In general Hull Identification (HIN) has been represented in four differing formats.

Three conform to the evolving standards originally established by the USA in 1972, modified on August 1st 1984 and more recently engrossed in a more harmonised format, ISO10087, in 1996. The fourth format is manufacturer driven and does not adhere to any form of standardisation.

The US Coast Guard introduced an initial protocol for HIN’s in 1972 which although implementation was mandatory throughout the USA, not all manufacturers initially adhered to this. Europe did not adopt any form of standard until June 16th 1996 when the European Recreational Craft Directive fundamentally adopted the US system under ISO10087. The EU regulation was enforced from June 1998.  ISO10087 added a 2 Character Country code pre-fix, the pre-fix complying with ISO3166 .

Under USCG requirements all boats manufactured or imported into the USA after November 1st 1972 must display a HIN conforming to the US standard. Under CE requirements, all recreational boats imported, manufactured or sold into the European Community, subsequent to 1996 must adhere to the EU RCD HIN format. As a result, the majority of international boat manufacturers adopted the initial USCG format in 1972 and the subsequent amendments and then the ISO10087 format after 1996. By default the current ISO10087 format has now become the harmonised “world standard”.

However, manufacturers within the USA do not have to adopt the EU standard and often do not pre-fix the 2 character country code, if vessels are not to be exported to the EU. Again, in Europe prior to 1996, many manufacturers did not adhere to any convention and applied their own form of Serial Number Identification. However, some major international manufacturers had prior adopted the US System.


Pre August 1984 – 12 Character Format

The following popular formats existed:

Format 1:

Format 2:

Post August 1984 - ISO 10087, 14 Character Format


Month encoding A – L


Table 1

Table 2


1972 – 1984

1984 +





































Note: Format changed from Table 1 to Table 2 on August 1st 1984. The letter M used in position 9 of the 12 character format, pre- Aug 1st, 1984 production, often indicated that the date and month of production is to follow. i.e: M84A = Production date January 1984

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Updated: Jun 23 at 08:39.   v.4.6
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