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HQ 110265

June 21, 1989

VES-13-17-CO:R:P:C 110265 LLB


Mr. Chuck Morris
Special Projects
Underwater Construction, Inc.
8740 Hartzell Road
Anchorage, Alaska 99507

RE: Use of Canadian-registered barge as a stationary platform for cleaning oil-contaminated oil containment and cleaning equipment

Dear Mr. Morris:

This is in response to your letter of June 14, 1989, in which you request that we rule upon the use of a non-coastwise qualified barge for utilization as a stationary work platform.


Your company, a U.S. company of which all the stock is U.S.- owned, owns a barge of Canadian registry which is currently moored in Seattle, Washington. It is proposed to tow the barge, known as the "336", from Seattle to a point in the recently fouled Prince William Sound, Alaska, where it would be moored for use as a stationary work platform on which oil-contaminated cleaning equipment would be cleaned.

It is stated that there would be no quarters aboard for housing workers since the only proposed use for the barge is as a work station. The official number of the barge is 345035.


Whether the coastwise laws are violated when a non 2
coastwise-qualified barge is used as a stationary work platform in coastwise waters.


Title 46, United States Code App., section 883 (46 U.S.C. App. 883), in pertinent part, prohibits the transportation of merchandise between points in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws, either directly or via a foreign port, or for any part of the transportation, in any vessel other than a vessel built in and documented under the laws of the United States and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States.

The Customs-Service consistently has held that the use of a non-coastwise-qualified vessel as a moored facility does not violate the coastwise laws, or any other law administered by the Customs Service, provided that the vessel remains stationary. Customs also has held that if the vessel is being loaded or unloaded and must be moved to another location because of stress of weather or other reason involving the vessel's safety, subsequently is returned to the same point to continue its loading or unloading, and neither loads nor unloads merchandise at any other point in the United States, the coastwise laws are not violated.

Although the vessel will not be engaging in coastwise trade while in operation as a stationary work facility, the point should be made that by virtue of its being anchored within territorial waters, the vessel itself will become a coastwise point. The practical effect of this fact is that any vessel moving merchandise or passengers between the moored barge and another coastwise point (in either direction), must itself be documented for the coastwise trade. Of course, the barge itself may not have any passengers or merchandise aboard during its initial tow from Seattle, or during its tow at the completion of its mission if that tow is to another coastwise point. You should also know that under the provisions of the coastwise towing statute codified at section 316 of title 46, United States Code App. (46 U.S.C. App. 316), the vessel towing your barge between coastwise points must be properly documented for that service.


In light of the facts, law and analysis discussed above, a foreign-registered barge may be used as a moored stationary work platform within the territorial waters of the U.S. without adverse consequence under the coastwise laws of the United States, so long as it transports neither passengers nor merchandise while under tow between coastwise points.


B. James Fritz

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