Boat Thieves Beware

March 2006 News

For the first time ever, an ambitious new project aimed a curbing boat theft makes it possible for anyone to check a boat's details against an international register of stolen vessels. The new online service at also provides a free HIN (Hull Id Number) validation, as well as valuable information about boat and equipment manufacturers and product recalls.


An international marine database for the purposes of thwarting boat thieves has long been desired by both the marine industry and officials worldwide. However, the complexity of setting up such a system has, until now, made such a venture seem "impossible." One of the reasons for this is that the registration numbers which are used to identify boats - Hull ID Numbers, or HINs - are not truly unique, at least, not internationally. For example, some boats manufactured in the EU have identical HINs to boats manufactured in the US.


Since 1996, the introduction of international standards has improved the situation for newly manufactured boats, but that still leaves literally millions of vessels without a single adequate identification number.  What's more, when a boat is stolen, thieves will typically try to alter the HIN in order to disguise the boat's identity before selling it on.


Boatfax aims to get round these problems by recording, and allowing users to search on, a range of features, including not only the HIN, but also other serial numbers and identifying characteristics.  In addition, the use of Boatfax's own `SmartSearch' technology allows comparison of the constituent parts of a HIN against the stolen boat database, which is able to identify characters that could have easily been altered (eg. the number three can easily be altered into the number eight), and intelligently apply a probability as to whether the entered HIN matches that of a stolen vessel.


The data that makes up the Boatfax database includes details supplied by various official sources around the world, including the US Coast Guard, the UK Department of Trade and Industry and officials from other governmental bodies in the EU, Canada, and the US, as well as insurance companies and individuals who sign up on the Boatfax website.


A basic HIN validation service is provided free of charge, with further checking services available on a pay-per-search basis.  The site also offers a subscription service for frequent users such as boat dealers, insurance and finance companies, and others involved in the recreational marine industry.


Founder and CEO of Boatfax, Chris Haythornthwaite says: "Whether you are an existing owner or new to boating, Boatfax sets out to provide users and dealers a single source of information on boats and boating. Reveal the secrets of the HIN, find the manufacturer, check if the boat is stolen, understand more about owning a boat and gain easy access to many boating services  - and there is much more to come." 

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