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HQ 952542

December 31, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952542 CAB


TARIFF NO.: 6307.20.0000; 6307.90.9986

Thomas J. Schmidt
Stearns Manufacturing Co.
P.O. Box 1498
St. Cloud, Minnesota 56302

RE: Classification of buoyant life jackets; unfinished life jacket shell subheading 6307.90; subheading 6307.20; GRI 2(a); inflatable life jackets; foam filled life jackets; life preservers

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

This letter is in response to your inquiry of August 19, 1992, requesting a tariff classification for life jackets under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Samples were submitted for examination.


The merchandise in question will be manufactured in Germany, China, Taiwan and/or Korea. The first sample, Style 877241, is a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) vest. It is constructed of 100% yellow nylon shell fabric; filled with polyethylene flotation foam; opened at the front and side; and secured at the waist with a textile web belt containing plastic buckles. Because Style 877241 meets certain safety requirements mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard, it is considered a type III Coast Guard rated safety buoyancy device.

The second sample is an outer shell for use with Style 877241. The shell is produced from 100% nylon woven fabric; contains a zippered front; and is secured to the body with textile web straps and plastic buckles. The shell is unfinished and has an opening at the bottom. The finishing will occur when the shell is stuffed with polyethylene flotation foam after importation into the United States.

The third sample, Style 877431, is an unfinished inflatable life bladder jacket exported from Germany. It is made of a 100% nylon fabric with a polyurethane coating. Style 877431 will be completed in the United States by adding the inflation mechanism, belts, snaps, buckles, and labels.

A completed inflatable life jacket has also been submitted. The life jacket has a U-shape; fits around the back of the neck and comes around to the front of the chest; inflates automatically within ten seconds of contact with the water by means of a carbon dioxide cartridge; contains an oral inflation valve and whistle; and is attached to the body by a textile web belt around the waist.

It is important to note that there are standards for articles to be considered life preservers in the United States and other countries. The U.S. Coast Guard mandates the standards for the United States and other countries provide their own similar standards for goods manufactured in their particular country.


Whether the articles in question are classifiable as life jackets under Heading 6307, HTUSA?


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI's, taken in order.

Heading 6307, HTSUSA, provides for other made up articles, not included more specifically elsewhere in the Nomenclature. The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity and Description Coding System (EN), although not legally binding, are the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The EN to Heading 6307, HTSUSA, specifically provide for life- jackets and life-belts under subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, the Unabridged Edition (1983) defines the term "life jacket" as a "sleeveless jacket of buoyant or inflatable construction, for supporting the wearer in deep water and preventing him from drowning." The Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the Unabridged Edition (1971) defines the term "life preserver" as a "device (a life belt, life ring, or life vest) designed to save a person from drowning by buoying up the body while in water." As stated in the dictionary, a "life preserver" is a generic term that includes various buoyancy devices that are constructed to save a drowning person by keeping him/her afloat. Thus, "life preservers" are included in the interpretation of life-jackets and life-belts which are provided for in Heading 6307, HTSUSA.

Note 7, Section XI, HTSUSA, defines the expression "made up" as including articles assembled by sewing, gumming or otherwise.

The U.S. Coast Guard standard for life preservers (46 CFR 160.055) states the following:

This specification covers life preservers which essentially consist of plastic foam buoyant material arranged and distributed so as to provide the flotation characteristics and buoyancy required to hold the wearer in an upright or slightly backward position with head and face clear of the water. The life preservers are also arranged so as to be reversible and are fitted with straps and hardware to provide proper adjustment and fit to the bodies of various size wearers.

The first sample, Style 877241, which is capable of keeping the wearer buoyant and in an upright face out-of-water position meets both U.S. Coast Guard standards and the commonly accepted definition of a life preserver. Vest-type life preservers, such as Style 877241, are commonly known as lifejackets. Therefore, it is within the scope of subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA.

Even though Style 877241 complies with U.S. Coast Guard requirements for an acceptable "life preserver", classification in subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA, is not precluded if an article does not conform to U.S. Coast Guard standards. Instead, classification of buoyancy devices is governed by the commonly accepted definition of a life jacket as mentioned above and stated in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 950496 of March 5, 1992.

The second sample which is an unfinished outer shell used in conjunction with Style 877241 presents the issue of whether an unfinished shell is provided for in subheading 6307.20. GRI 2(a) states that a heading refers to a particular article even if it is unfinished or incomplete, provided that it has the essential character of the finished article. A similar issue was confronted in HRL 087421 of September 7, 1990, when we determined that the essential character of a life jacket is imparted by the flotation material with which it is filled, since it is this material which gives the article its basis for existence. There, the merchandise in question, an outer shell for a life jacket was not classifiable in subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA. The instant article is also a shell for a life jacket. It contains no flotation material at the time of importation. Without the flotation material, the shell does not have the characteristic which generally gives a life jacket its essential character. The shell is not capable of rendering a wearer buoyant or preventing him/her from drowning, Consequently, the second sample is not classifiable in subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA.

Style 877431, which is an unfinished inflatable life jacket bladder has the essential character of a finished life jacket within the meaning of GRI 2(a). This item does not require any type of flotation foam for buoyancy. Instead, the item is rendered buoyant by means of a carbon dioxide cartridge. Accordingly, Style 877431 falls within the purview of subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA.

The finished life jacket, inflatable by carbon dioxide is specifically provided for in subheading 6307.20, HTSUSA. Thus, it is properly classifiable under this provision.


As a result of the foregoing, Styles 877241, 877431, and the finished inflatable life jacket are classifiable in subheading 6307.20.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for other made up articles, lifejackets and life-belts. The applicable rate of duty is 9 percent ad valorem. There is no textile restraint category. The life jacket shell is classifiable in subheading 6307.90.9986, HTSUSA, which provides for other made up articles.


John Durant
Director, Commercial Rulings

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