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HQ 109690

August 25, 1988

VES-3-01 CO:R:P:C: 109690 DHR


Mr. K. A. Grainger
Harmstorf Corporation
60 East 42nd Street
New York, New York 10165

RE: Use of a foreign vessel to lay cable in U.S. waters

Dear Mr. Grainger:

This is with reference to your letter of August 4, 1988, concerning the proposed operation of a foreign cable-laying vessel in U.S. waters.


It is proposed to lay an underwater cable in U.S. waters (New York Sound) between one U.S. point and another such point. It is intended to use the specialized West German cable-laying barge ELBE. The cables would be carried on a U.S.-owned cable- carrying barge.


1. Can a foreign vessel lay cable in U.S. waters between U.S. points without violating section 883, title 46, United States Code Appendix.

2. If the vessel can so operate, what are the requirements concerning Customs duties, fees, and work permits for foreign workers.


Section 883, title 46, United States Code Appendix, prohibits the transportation of merchandise between ports or places in the United States on a foreign-built or foreign-owned vessel. The Customs Service has consistently held that the laying of underwater cable between two points embraced within the coastwise laws of the United States by a foreign vessel is in violation of no law administered by this agency. Such a vessel, however, could not be used to transport the cable between U.S. points. It is the fact that the cable is not landed as cargo, but only paid out in the course of the laying operation, which makes the activity permissible.

Section 1435 of title 19, United States Code, provides that a vessel must make entry upon arrival at every port or place in the United States. Pursuant to sections 313 and 314, title 46, United States Code Appendix, a foreign vessel is required to obtain from Customs a permit to proceed from one U.S. point or place to another such point or place.

Also, pursuant to section 58c of title 19, a commercial vessel of 100 net tons or more is subject to a user fee of $397.00 upon its arrival in the United States. Also there are navigation fees of $18.00 each for making entry, clearing, and obtaining a permit to proceed.

The cable is dutiable under Part 5 of Schedule 6, Tariff Schedules of the United States. Because the rate of duty depends on the type of cable, it is suggested that complete specifications and/or a sample of the cable be submitted to Customs in New York for a binding classification.


1. There is no law administered by the Customs Service which would prohibit the laying of an underwater cable between points or places in the United States.

2. The vessel would be subject to the fees discussed above. There are no duties on commercial vessels. Work permits are within the purview of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice.


E. H. Mach

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