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The Naval Vessel Register (NVR), official inventory of ships and service craft in custody or titled by the US Navy, traces its origin back to the 1880s. It has evolved from several previous publications. In 1911, the Bureau of Construction and Repair published the "Ships Data US Naval Vessels" that subsequently became the "Ships Data Book" in 1952 under the Bureau of Ships. The Bureau of Ordnance's "Vessel Register", first published in 1942 and retitled "Naval Vessel Register", was combined with the "Ships Data Book" under the Bureau of Ships in 1959. The NVR has been maintained and published by NAVSHIPSO since 1962. Referred to by Congress in the statutes of the United States Code, Title 10, Sections 7304-7308, the NVR is maintained as directed by US Navy Regulations, Article 0406, of 14 SEP 1990.

Vessels are listed in the NVR when the classification and hull number(s) are assigned to ships and service craft authorized to be built by the President, or when CNO requests instatement or reinstatement of vessels as approved by SECNAV. Once listed, the ship or service craft remains in the NVR throughout its life as a Navy asset. Afterwards, its final disposition is recorded.

The NVR now exists as an electronic document only. It is maintained and updated weekly. Over 6,500 separate record transactions are processed annually with each being supported by official documentation. The NVR includes a current list of ships and service craft on hand, under construction, converted, loaned/leased, or to be loaned, and those assigned to the Military Sealift Command. Ship class, fleet assignment, name, age, homeport, planning yard, custodian, hull and machinery characteristics, builder, key construction dates, battle forces, local defense and miscellaneous support forces, and status conditions are some of the data elements provided.