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HQ 109940

MAR 8, 1989

VES-1-01 CO:R:P:C 109940 LLB


Brien E. Kehoe, Esq.
Hill, Betts, and Nash
1818 N Street NW.
Washington, D.C. 20036

RE: Applicability of the vessel documentation laws to a permanently moored non-self-propelled barge, owned by a municipal government

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

This is in response to your December 10, 1988, request for a ruling regarding the applicability of the vessel documentation laws to a certain permanently moored, foreign-built, non-self propelled barge.


A non-self-propelled barge is to be constructed in Singapore. The barge will exceed five net tons, will be owned by a municipal government in the United States, and will be suitable for human habitation. The barge will be brought to the United States and will be permanently moored within the waters of a harbor.


Whether a foreign-built, permanently moored, non-self propelled barge of over five net tons, owned by a municipal government in the United States, is eligible for documentation.


Title 46, United States Code, section 12102 (46 U.S.C. 12102), sets forth the criteria for documentation eligibility. In our estimation, the central issue concerns the eligibility of a municipal government under those criteria. The statute specifically provides for ownership by the Federal Government or that of a State. The question remaining is whether the agency charged with interpreting and enforcing the vessel documentation laws (the U.S. Coast Guard) would extend the interpretation of the statute to include a municipality.

You correctly state that since the vessel would be permanently moored within a harbor it would not be considered to be engaging the transportation of passengers or merchandise in violation of the coastwise laws. You do not state any specific use to which the vessel will be put, but merely state that it will be suitable for human habitation. If used solely to house persons, there are not "fisheries" ramifications. You should be aware, however, if used in the processing of fish (even from a permanently moored position) this would be considered an engagement in the "fisheries" within the meaning of the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Anti-Reflagging Act of 1987 (Pub. L. 100-239; 101 Stat. 1778).

Regarding the question of eligibility of the barge for documentation with a registry, we recommend that you seek the opinion of the Coast Guard. Your inquiry should be directed to:

Mr. Thomas Willis
Chief, Vessel Documentation
U. S. Coast Guard (GMVI-6/13)
2100 Second Street SW. (Room 1312)
Washington, D.C. 20593-0001


The vessel, as described, may not be documented for either the coastwise trade or fisheries trade. A determination on its eligibility for documentation with a registry must be made by the U.S. Coast Guard under 46 U.S.C. 12102.


B. James Fritz

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