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HQ 950562

January 9, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 950562 JS


TARIFF NO.: 6113.00.0086

Linda Cossey
3105 E. Harcourt St.
Rancho Dominguez
CA 90221

RE: S.E.A. Vest; buoyancy vest; not a life vest; classifiable heading 6113, HTSUSA

Dear Ms. Cossey:

This is in reference to your letter of October 11, 1991, requesting classification of a sea vest buoyancy device under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The merchandise at issue, which is to be manufactured in Mexico, is a vest-type buoyancy device used by snorkel swimmers. The article is a full front and back neoprene vest which may be unzippered on the left hand side for ease of wear or removal. The neoprene front and back portions are laminated with a red knit pile fabric on the inside and a black knit fabric on the exterior. A built-in bladder which you state is made of a (polyurethane) plastic coated nylon woven material covers the entire front and is attached to it at the sides with elastic webbing: it has an oral inflator attached to the top left shoulder which may pushed to blow air into, or release air from the vest. A zippered mesh pocket is sewn onto the bottom of the front; the beaver tail which extends from the back of the vest wraps around to this front portion and is secured by hook and loop tape.

The information provided with this request states that the SCUBAPRO S.E.A. (Snorkeling Enhancement Accessory) Vest is designed primarily for warm water snorkeling, but can also be used in cooler water over a wet suit. It is not a life jacket, and is merely intended to provide warmth and a small amount of flotation.



What is the appropriate classification of a textile snorkeling vest with flotation chamber, which is not intended as a life-saving device.


The classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI), taken in order. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

The competing headings in this instance are heading 5903 (textile fabrics impregnated, coated, covered, or laminated with plastics), heading 5906 (rubberized textile fabrics), and, once the constituent fabric is determined, heading 6113 (garments made up of knitted or crocheted fabrics of heading 5903, 5906 or 5907).

Prior to our consideration of the headings that classify articles, we must, in this case, determine the constituent materials of the merchandise. The following analysis is therefore relevant: heading 5903, HTSUSA, provides for classification of textile products impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, other than tire cord covered by Heading 5902.

Note 2 of Chapter 59, HTSUSA, provides, in pertinent part:

Heading 5903 applies to:

(a) Textile fabrics, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, ...other than:

(l) Fabrics in which the impregnation, coating or covering cannot be seen with the naked eye (usually Chapters 50-55, 58 or 60); for the purpose of this provision, no account should be taken of any resulting change of colour;

The wording of Note 2(a)(1) ("cannot be seen with the naked eye") is a clear expression by the drafters of the Harmonized System that a significant, if not substantial, amount of material must be added to a fabric for it to be considered "impregnated, coated, covered or laminated." The plastics material added to

the fabric must be visibly distinguishable from the fabric itself. In essence, the plastics coating must alter the visual characteristic of the fabric in order for the fabric to be considered coated with plastics.

Applying the statutory test to the plastic coated air bladder, using normally corrected vision in a well lit room, we note that it has a dull matte finish on the surface which may be caused by the application of polyurethane plastic; this effect, however, does not in and of itself distinguish the fabric as "coated." The visual characteristics of the material itself have not been altered: the weave of the sample is readily discernable. The nylon fabric, therefore, is not considered coated with plastics under the requirements of the HTSUSA.

The textile covered neoprene vest is analyzed under heading 5906, which provides for rubberized textile fabric, other than those of heading 5902. We find that Chapter 59 Note 4 (d) is applicable; it states that for the purposes of heading 5906, the expression "rubberized textile fabrics" means:

(d) Plates, sheets or strip, of cellular rubber, combined with textile fabric, where the textile fabric is more than mere reinforcement, other than textile products of heading 5811.

Neoprene rubber is cellular rubber, and the fabric, prior to cutting and sewing, is sheet rubber. In order to determine which of these fabrics characterize the article for purposes of classification, GRI 3(b) is invoked and the essential character test is applied. This test is mandated since the article at issue is a composite good consisting of different materials or made up of different components, which cannot be classified by the preceding rules. In this case, however, the criterion for determining essential character does not provide satisfactory results. The bladder of the article provides the buoyancy for which the item was designed, whereas the neoprene material constitutes the bulk of the item, providing the wearer with warmth and comfort. The two parts are equally significant since the article could not be used for the intended purpose without both components.

GRI 3(c) states that when goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration. Therefore, heading 5906 prevails, and the article is considered made up of a rubberized textile fabric for purposes of classification.

The article as a whole is thereby classifiable as textile goods of Section XI. The applicable heading is 6113, which provides for garments, made up of knitted or crocheted fabrics of 4
heading 5903, 5906 or 5907. The Explanatory Notes, the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, state that the heading includes "raincoats, oilskins, divers' suits and anti-radiation protective suits, not combined with breathing apparatus." Since the snorkeling vest is made of knit fabric of heading 5906, and is similar to a divers' suit, it is properly classified under heading 6113, HTSUSA.


The S.E.A. Vest is classified under subheading 6113.00.0086, HTSUSA, which covers garments, made up of knitted or crocheted fabrics of heading 5903, 5906 or 5907, other: other: women's or girls', textile category 659, dutiable at the rate of 7.6 percent ad valorem. As a product of Mexico this merchandise is eligible for duty free treatment under the Generalized System of Preferences.

If the S.E.A. Vest is assembled in Mexico, the value of the U.S. components may be excluded from duty pursuant to heading 9802, HTSUSA. However, in order to determine whether these goods qualify as articles assembled abroad with components produced in the United States, contact or write to the Special Classification Branch, U.S. Customs Service, 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20229, (202) 566-5765.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, the visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available we suggest your client check, close the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service which is updated weekly and is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, your client should contact the local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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