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HQ 110283

November 17, 1989

VES-3-15/VES-3-21 CO:R:P:C 110283 BEW


Mr. Steven B. Chameides
Foley & Lardner
1775 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-4680

RE: Applicability of the coastwise laws to the use of a foreign-built floating drydock in the territorial waters of the United States.

Dear Mr. Chameides:

This is in reference to your request for a ruling on the applicability of the coastwise laws to the use of a foreign-built floating drydock owned by a shipyard located in a United States coastal port.


You state that the floating drydock is not self-propelled, that it is permanently moored to a system of pilings at the shipyard and is used exclusively to raise vessels from the water for the purposes of inspection and maintenance and repairs at the shipyard.


May a foreign-built floating drydock which is permanently moored to a system of pilings at a shipyard located in the territorial waters of the United States be used as a drydock without violating the coastwise laws?


Section 27 of the Act of June 5, 1920, as amended (41 Stat. 999; 46 U.S.C. App. 883, often called the Jones Act), provides, in pertinent part, that:

No merchandise shall be transported by water, or by land and water, on penalty of forfeiture of the merchandise (or a monetary amount up to the value
thereof as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, or the actual cost of the transportation, whichever is greater, to be recovered from any consignor, seller, owner, importer, consignee, agent, or other person or persons so transporting or causing said merchandise to be transported), 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 other vessel 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 has consistently held that the use of a non-coastwise-qualified vessel as a permanently 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 floating drydock, 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.

Under the circumstances stated above, a foreign-built vessel not qualified to engage in the coastwise trade can be used as a permanently moored floating drydock, without violating the statute. No law or regulation administrated by the United States Customs Service would preclude the use of the permanently moored structure as a floating drydock for shipyard maintenance and repairs.


A foreign-built floating drydock may be used as a permanently moored floating drydock within the territorial waters of the U.S. without violating the coastwise laws of the United States.


B. James Fritz

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