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HQ 110863

July 24, 1990

VES-13-18-CO:R:P:C 110863 LLB


Chief, Technical Branch
Commercial Operations
Pacific Region
One World Trade Center
Long Beach, California 90831

RE: Vessel Repair; Cleaning; Survey; Modification; Repair; Vessel PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, V-180; Entry Number 718- 0000358-5

Dear Sir:

Reference is made to your memorandum of February 6, 1990, which forwards for our consideration the application for relief from vessel repair duties filed by Sun Transport, Incorporated, seeking relief from the assessment of vessel repair duties in connection with the November 28, 1988, arrival of the vessel PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND in the port of Portland, Oregon.


The vessel, upon arrival, filed a declaration and entry of vessel repairs as required under section 4.14, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 4.14), reporting extensive work which had been performed in foreign shipyards. The application for relief from duties seeks relief on numerous items for the claimed reason that they involved non-repair-related expenses (modification, cleaning, survey, etc.). Customs Headquarters advice is sought on fifty-six such items.


Whether the items claimed as free and forwarded for review and advice are considered duty-free under either court or administrative interpretations of 19 U.S.C. 1466(a).


Section 466, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1466) provides, in pertinent part, for payment of duty in the amount of 50 percent ad valorem on the cost of foreign repairs to vessels documented under the laws of the United States to engage in foreign or coastwise trade, or vessels intended to engage in such trade.

A leading case in the interpretation and application of section 1466 is United States v. Admiral Oriental Line et al., 18 C.C.P.A. 137 (T.D. 44359 (1930)). That case distinguished between equipment and repairs on one hand and permanent additions to the hull and fittings on the other, the former being subject to duty under section 1466.

The Court in Admiral Oriental, supra., cited with approval an opinion of the Attorney General (27 Op. Atty. Gen. 288). That opinion interpreted section 17 of the Act of June 26, 1884, (23 Stat. 57), which allowed drawback on vessels built in the U.S. for foreign account, wholly or in part of duty-paid materials. In defining equipment of a vessel, the Attorney General found that items which are not equipment are:

...those appliances which are permanently attached to the vessel, and which would remain on board were the vessel to be laid up for a long period...[and] are material[s] used in the construction of the vessel...

While the opinion of the Attorney General interpreted a provision of law other than section 1466 or a predecessor thereto, it is considered instructive and has long been cited in Customs Service rulings as defining permanent additions to the hull and fittings of a vessel.

Customs has held that for an item to be characterized as a nondutiable modification, it must encompass the installation of an item as a new design feature, not as a replacement for, or restoration of, parts now performing a similar function. We have also held that the decision in each case as to whether an installation constitutes a nondutiable addition to the hull and fittings of the vessel depends to a great extent on the detail and accuracy of the drawings and invoice descriptions of the actual work performed. Even if an article is considered to be part of the hull and fittings of a vessel, the repair of that article, or the replacement of a worn part of the hull and fittings, is subject to vessel repair duties.

Customs also holds that the costs for certain surveys and inspections are not dutiable, even though dutiable repair may be performed in connection with their execution. Such operations are generally limited to surveys required to keep a vessel in class. Other surveys or inspections, such as those performed to ascertain whether repairs are either necessary or adequately accomplished, are dutiable.

One early case (United States v. George Hall Coal Co., 134 F. 1003 (1905)), was the first to find any of various types of expenses associated with the foreign shipyard operations to be classifiably free from the assessment of vessel repair duties.

We have reviewed the evidence regarding the items for which relief is sought and find that the operations constitute permanent duty-free modifications to the hull and fittings of the vessel, with the exception of item A-19E. (Sembawang Shipyard Invoice #5049C). This item relates to the installation of computer equipment for the tank gauging system. This segregated cost is for sensitive electronic equipment which would be removed were the vessel to be laid up for any extended period of time and is, therefore, considered dutiable.


In light of the foregoing facts and analysis of the law, we are of the opinion that the items for which relief is sought are not subject to duty under section 1466(a) except as specified above.


B. James Fritz

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