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HQ 226929

June 4, 1997

DRA-1-06-DRA-2-02-RR:IT:EC 226929 IOR


Director, Passenger/Outbound Compliance
U.S. Customs Service
2323 South Shepard, Ste. 1211
Houston, TX 77019

RE: Internal Advice Request; unsigned bills of lading; drawback; documentation of exportation; 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2); C.S.D. 82-59; C.S.D. 79-254; C.S.D. 80-99; T.D. 83-212

Dear Sir or Madame:

This request for internal advice was initiated by a letter dated April 8, 1996 from Gulf Coast Drawback Services, Inc. ("GCDS"), on behalf of Constar International, Inc. ("Constar"), which you forwarded by your memorandum dated April 25, 1996. GCDS has requested that the copies of ocean bills of lading, submitted on August 30, 1996, be granted confidentiality under Customs Regulations, 177.2(b)(7) (19 CFR 177.2(b)(7). We have reviewed the request for confidentiality and grant the request.


Constar files drawback claims pursuant to a contract approved under 19 U.S.C. ?1313(b), T.D. 96-26-F (HQ 226406). Constar has routinely filed drawback claims utilizing unsigned vessel or airway bills of lading to support an Uncertified Notice of Exportation. Such claims have been approved in the past by Customs. Constar is currently under audit by the Regulatory Audit Division, and the use of unsigned bills of lading are being challenged as valid proof of export. GCDS states that the validity of the bills of lading is challenged on the basis that the "stamped-in" or "type-in" date shown on the bills of lading could have been done by any interim party. GCDS has submitted two ocean bills of lading, each with an accompanying Notice of Exportation of Articles With Benefit of Drawback (CF 7511). Neither 7511 includes a date of exportation, or is signed by anyone. There is a typewritten date on each bill of lading on the bottom of the form next to the word "DATE:" on one and "DATED" on the other. One of the bills of lading includes a statement of "clean on board" followed by a date, and a typewritten name of an individual on the signature line for the carrier. The second bill of lading has nothing on the signature line and although it includes a date, it does not have an "on board" date. Both bills of lading include a bill of lading number.

GCDS has also submitted four letters from persons who GCDS states are licensed freight forwarders and international carriers, however, it is difficult to determine from the letters which one is from a freight forwarder and which one is from an international carrier. Two of the four letters are unsigned. According to the four letters, the freight forwarder prepares a master bill of lading which is submitted to the steamship line. The steamship line or steamship agent then uses the master bill of lading to create a bill of lading for the specific merchandise, and assigns a bill of lading number, affixes (some by stamping or printing) an "on board date" and runs the information off onto the specified carrier's bill of lading form, by either computer or photocopying. The letters all indicate that only the three "original" bills of lading are signed, and these become negotiable instruments. One of the letters states that a steamship company does not issue or sign a bill of lading until it is certain that the cargo covered by the bill of lading has in fact sailed on the exporting vessel. Three of the letters indicate that the "original" bills of lading are either returned to the freight forwarder or exporter. According to one letter the "original" bills of lading may also be delivered with the vessel to the port of discharge, or may not even be issued, if "express" bills of lading are issued. All four of the letters state that unsigned non-negotiable copies of the bill of lading are returned to the shipper or forwarder. According to the letters all three of the original bill of lading are required by a bank for credit purposes, and in some cases three non-negotiable copies as well.


Whether the submitted bills of lading satisfy the regulatory requirements for proof of exportation for purposes of claiming drawback.


The available procedures for establishment of exportation of articles for drawback purposes are set forth in 19 CFR 191.51(a) through (e). One of the procedures is (a) "Notice of exportation," the requirements of which are set forth in 19 CFR 191.52.

Under 19 CFR 191.52(c), two types of documentation are accepted for compliance with the notice of exportation procedure. Constar has chosen to use the "uncertified notice of exportation," under 191.52(c)(2), which consists of an uncertified notice of exportation supported by "documentary evidence of exportation, such as the bill of lading, air waybill, freight waybill, Canadian Customs manifest, cargo manifest, or certified copies thereof, issued by the exporting carrier." (Emphasis added). The supporting documentary evidence must establish fully the time and fact of exportation and the identity of the exporter. 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2).

In this case, the documents provided are neither the originals nor certified copies. From the statements submitted by the freight forwarders and international carriers, it is apparent that the original bill of lading cannot customarily be saved to provide to Customs, as it is a document of title, and all originals may be required for completing commercial transactions. This is supported by U.C.C., Article 7, ?7-104, which provides that a bill of lading is a negotiable document of title. According to Incoterms, 1990, "it is customary to issue bills of lading in several originals but it is, of course, of vital importance for a buyer or a bank acting upon his instructions in paying the seller to ensure that all originals are surrendered by the seller (so-called full set')." Id. at 15.

If a drawback claimant chooses to support an uncertified notice of exportation with a bill of lading, and cannot provide Customs with the original, the claimant must provide Customs with a certified copy. With respect to certification, in C.S.D. 79-254, Customs stated that in support of an uncertified notice of exportation, company invoices are not acceptable to prove exportation, however, "[o]ther documents such as inland bills of lading certified by the carrier, customs officer, or another disinterested third party having knowledge of the exportation, are acceptable." "Certified copy" is defined as a "copy certified as true by the officer to whose custody the original is entrusted." Ballentine's Law Dictionary, 1969, at 188. Based on the definition and C.S.D. 79-254, certification by the carrier or freight forwarder to whom the originals have been given, would be acceptable certification, as these are disinterested third parties who are entrusted with the original bills of lading for a period during the transaction.

Customs stated in C.S.D. 80-99, that perforated and other facsimile signatures on bills of lading and other documents used to support an uncertified notice of exportation are "sufficient for certification or authentication if the person or entity affixing that signature intends to be bound by it." In C.S.D. 82-59, Customs stated that a bill of lading "in the possession of the exporter, showing receipt of the goods by the export shipper, would be a bill of lading issued' by that shipper" within the meaning of section 22.7(c) of the Customs Regulations (now section 191.52(c)(2) of the Customs regulations). With respect to the term "issued", the C.S.D. stated that "issued" does not mean "signed,", "certified," or "authenticated," but means "emitted or sent forth." In C.S.D. 82-59, Customs also reaffirmed the decision in C.S.D. 80-99, stating that perforated and other facsimile signatures on supporting documents suffice. Nothing in C.S.D. 82-59 states that supporting documents "issued" by the exporting carrier, do not need to be signed or certified copies.

GCDS has cited T.D. 83-212 in support of the argument that "since certified copies are acceptable proof of exportation, and in view of the clear language in the Treasury Decision...of what constitutes a certified copy," whether an ocean bill of lading is signed or unsigned is a moot point. T.D. 83-212 published Customs analysis of comments pertaining to proposed revision of drawback regulations. The comment and response referred to by GCDS was in reference to section 191.52(c)(2). The comment suggested that the reference in section 191.52(c)(2) to "or certified copies thereof" be removed in order to conform to C.S.D. 82-59. Customs response was:

Customs disagrees. That ruling merely stated that copies of bills of lading, etc., which indicate that the goods were received by the exporting carrier, would be sufficient to support a notice of exportation. This is the "certification" to which section 191.52(c) refers.

The statement in T.D. 83-212 does not state that unsigned copies of the subject documents are sufficient to support a notice of exportation. Customs position, as stated in T.D. 83-212, is not inconsistent with accepting a signed copy of a bill of lading. According to C.S.D. 80-99, a signed bill of lading is sufficient to support an uncertified notice of exportation. Therefore the question of whether or not the bills of lading are signed is not moot. However, we believe that the statement regarding certification could have been more clearly made. What was intended was a statement that the term "certification" refers to the documents at issue. That is, that the copies of bills of lading, etc., which indicate that the goods were received by the exporting carrier, and which would be sufficient to support a notice of exportation are the documents, copies of which should be certified, in order to support an uncertified notice of exportation.

Nothing in prior Customs decisions or the Customs Regulations indicates that an unsigned and uncertified copy of a bill of lading is sufficient to support an uncertified notice of exportation. Furthermore, 19 CFR 191.62(b), pertaining to the filing of drawback claims, requires a drawback entry covering exports under 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2), to include the notice of exportation and the original or certified copy of the supporting document. In the proposed drawback regulations, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published in the Federal Register, January 21, 1997 (62 FR 3082), and Customs Bulletin, January 29, 1997, at p. 21, the language in proposed section 191.72(a) pertaining to documentary evidence of exportation refers to " original bill of lading, air waybill, freight waybill, Canadian Customs manifest, and/or cargo manifest, or certified copies thereof, issued by the exporting carrier". Therefore, no change in the general requirements of supporting documents is proposed.

Finally, GCDS also suggests that the signed declaration made on the CF 331 and/or the CF 7539 are sufficient as "certification." We do not agree. The language of 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2) clearly requires certified copies of the subject documents, if original or signed copies are not available, and an alternative declaration is not sufficient.

Of the two bills of lading submitted, the one with the individual's name typed on the signature line and the "clean on board" date, is sufficient to support an uncertified notice of exportation. The typed name is sufficient certification or authentification, in accordance with C.S.D. 80-99, and the date reflects that the goods were received by the exporting carrier. The second bill of lading, however, which has no form of signature on the signature line, and no other certification or authentification, and no "on board" date, is insufficient to support an uncertified notice of exportation.

We note that the CF 7511s submitted do not include a date of exportation in the space provided, and are unsigned. Without signatures and without a date of exportation being included, and if no date is provided in the supporting documentation, Customs may not consider the drawback claim complete, as it does not establish "fully the time and fact of exportation," in accordance with 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2).


Bills of lading which are not original, and have neither perforated, typewritten or other facsimile signatures nor other certification of authenticity, are not sufficient to support an uncertified notice of exportation under 19 CFR 191.52(c)(2).

This decision should be mailed by your office to the internal advice requester no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. On that date the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


International Trade Compliance

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