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HQ 113430

May 3, 1995

VES-3-R:IT:C 113430 GEV


Captain Everett Ballenger, Jr.
6221 Kemberly St.
Columbia, South Carolina 29209

RE: Coastwise Trade; Foreign-built vessel; Voyage-to-Nowhere; 46 U.S.C. App. ? 289

Dear Captain Ballenger:

This is in response to your letter dated May 1, 1995, regarding the operation of your vessel on a "voyage-to-nowhere." Our ruling on this matter is set forth below.


The U.S.-flagged, foreign-built vessel PRIME TIME has been operating in a sailboat charter business in Hilton Head, S.C., until April 21, 1995, when the U.S. Coast Guard shut down the operation since the vessel did not have a coastwise endorsement on its certificate of documentation. It is now proposed to operate the vessel pursuant to a "voyage-to-nowhere" whereby the vessel would embark passengers at Hilton Head Marina, proceed to international waters, and return to the passengers' point of embarkation without stopping where the passengers would disembark.


Whether the transportation of passengers aboard the subject vessel pursuant to a "voyage-to-nowhere" constitutes a violation of 46 U.S.C. App. ? 289.


Title 46, United States Code Appendix, ? 289 (46 U.S.C. App. ? 289, the passenger coastwise law) as interpreted by the Customs Service, prohibits the transportation of passengers between points in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws, either directly or by way of a foreign port, in a non-coastwise-qualified vessel (i.e., any vessel that is not built in and
documented under the laws of the United States, and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States). For purposes of ? 289, "passenger" is defined as "... any person carried on a vessel who is not connected with the operation of such vessel, her navigation, ownership, or business." (19 CFR ? 4.50(b)) Section 4.80a, Customs Regulations (19 CFR ? 4.80a) is interpretive of ? 289.

In its administration of 46 U.S.C. App. ? 289, the Customs Service has ruled that the carriage of passengers entirely within territorial waters, even though the passengers disembark at their point of embarkation and the vessel touches no other coastwise point, is considered coastwise trade subject to the coastwise laws. However, the transportation of passengers to the high seas (i.e., beyond U.S. territorial waters) and back to the point of embarkation, assuming the passengers do not go ashore, even temporarily, at another United States point, of ten called a "voyage-to-nowhere", is not considered coastwise trade (29 O.A.G. 318 (1912)). It should be noted that the carriage of fishing parties for hire, even if the vessel proceeds beyond territorial waters and returns to the point of the passengers' embarkation, is considered coastwise trade (T.D. 55193(2)).

In interpreting the coastwise laws, Customs has ruled that a point in United States territorial waters is a point in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws. The territorial waters of the United States consist of the territorial sea, defined as the belt, 3 nautical miles wide, seaward of the territorial sea baseline, and to points located in internal waters, landward of the territorial sea baseline, in cases where the baseline and the coastline differ.

In regard to the proposed use of the PRIME TIME, the transportation of passengers from Hilton Head Marina to international waters (i.e., beyond the 3 mile territorial sea) and back to their point of embarkation without stopping where they would disembark would constitute a "voyage-to-nowhere." Accordingly, such use of the vessel does not violate 46 U.S.C. App.


The transportation of passengers aboard the subject vessel pursuant to a voyage-to-nowhere does not constitute a violation of 46 U.S.C. App. ? 289.


Arthur P. Schifflin
Carrier Rulings Branch

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