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The Bureau of Navigation was an agency of the U.S. government established in 1884 to enforce laws relating to the construction, equipment, operation, inspection, safety, and documentation of merchant vessels. (This organization is not to be confused with the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Navigation, founded in 1862 and renamed the Bureau of Naval Personnel in 1942.)

The Bureau of Navigation also investigated marine accidents and casualties; collected tonnage taxes and other navigation fees; and examined, certified and licensed merchant-vessel sailors.

When established, the bureau was a part of the Department of the Treasury. In 1903, the organization was transferred to the newly-formed Department of Commerce and Labor. In 1913 that department was split in two and the bureau was assigned to the Department of Commerce. In 1932 it was combined with the Steamboat Inspection Service as the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection.

In 1942, Executive Order 9083 transferred many functions to two other agencies. Merchant-vessel documentation was transferred to the Bureau of Customs. Functions relating to merchant-vessel inspection, safety of life at sea, and merchant-vessel personnel were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard. The merchant vessel documention functions were also transferred to the Coast Guard in 1946.

The Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection was abolished as unnecessary and redundant by Reorganization Plan No. III of 1946, with all functions being absorbed by the Bureau of Customs and the U.S. Coast Guard.


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