Vessel General Permits

A vessel general permit is required for most vessels traveling in U.S. waters. The only exception is recreational vessels or small commercial fishing vessels. The Environmental Protection Agency put VGP requirements into effect to protect waters from any vessel that discharges pollution. Understanding if these permits affect you is critical for any business taking to the water.


VGP guidelines have changed since 2008, as new regulations were put in place in 2013. Any vessel that is used for commercial purposes and is more than 79 feet in length must have a permit. The point of the permit is to legally allow a certain amount of discharge from each vessel. Each vessel has a limit on how much discharge it is permitted, and you can check with the EPA to see what your vessel qualifies under. Even empty barges must follow VGP regulations.

Proper Practices

You do not legally need to keep a copy of your permit onboard your vessel; however, it is recommended that you carry one as proof and reminders of requirements. Some vessels must have other documentation, which you should check before heading out.

Learning about your vessel’s VGP requirements can save you a lot of hassle in the future. Check guidelines frequently, as they can expire and change with legislation.