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HQ 111053

June 14, 1990

VES 3/VES 7-01 CO:R:P:C 111053 BEW


Paul J. Larson
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard
Officer in Charge Marine Inspection
165 North Pico Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802

RE: Transportation of cargo by the EXXON VALDEZ from Alaska to California

Dear Mr. Larson:

This is in reference to your letter of May 18, 1989, in which you requested a determination as to whether the EXXON VALDEZ was engaged in coastwise trade or whether she was travelling under her registry endorsement when she ran aground on March 23, 1989.


You indicate that the following travel occurred:

On March 22, 1989, the EXXON VALDEZ arrived in Valdez, Alaska, in ballast to take on cargo of Alaskan Northslope Crude Oil. The vessel had sailed to Valdez from San Francisco, California, where her last load of cargo (also from Valdez) was discharged. After discharging ballast and completing readiness for taking on cargo approximately 1.3 million barrels of cargo were onloaded. The EXXON VALDEZ departed Valdez, Alaska, at approximately 9:00 p.m. local time, March 23 1989. The intended destination of this cargo was a partial discharge in Long Beach, California, and the remainder to be discharged in the San Francisco Bay area. No foreign or other domestic intermediate ports were scheduled for any purpose.


Whether transportation of cargo to San Francisco, California, from Alaska and return to Alaska in ballast to take on additional cargo destined for Long Beach and San Francisco, California, is coastwise trade.


There is no statutory or regulatory definition of coastwise trade. The Customs Service enforces various navigation laws, some of which deal with the coastwise trade.

Title 46, United States Code Appendix, section 833 (46 U.S.C. App. 883, often called the Jones Act), 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. Section 883 also prohibits the engagement in the coastwise trade by any vessel which had the right to engage in the coastwise trade but was sold foreign, in whole or in part, or was placed under foreign registry.

A point in the United States territorial waters is considered a point in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws but a point beyond those waters, even if it is within the United States EEZ, is not considered to be such a point, with certain exceptions inapplicable in this context (see, e.g., the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1958, as amended; 43 U.S.C. 1333, and the amendments to 46 U.S.C. App. 883 regarding the transportation of valueless or dredged material effected by Public Law 100-329). The territorial waters of the United States consist of the belt, 3 nautical miles wide, adjacent to the coast of the United States and seaward of the territorial sea baseline. The recent Presidential Proclamation (dated December 27, 1988) proclaiming a 12 nautical mile territorial sea extended the jurisdiction of the United States only for international purposes and did not extend or change existing federal and state laws. The territorial waters of the United States continues to be 3 nautical miles wide, for purposes of the applicability of the coastwise laws.

Based on the facts stated above, we find no evidence that the vessel entered a foreign port prior her arrival at or departure from Alaska to San Francisco or prior to her departure from Alaska to Long Beach. Accordingly, we find that the EXXON VALDEZ was engaging in coastwise trade during the said period of time from March 22, 1989, until she ran aground on March 23, 1989.


Transportation of cargo from Alaska to San Francisco and transportation of cargo from Alaska to Long Beach California is coastwise trade.


B. James Fritz

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