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HQ 959355

January 6, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:TE 959355 GGD


TARIFF NO.: 3926.90.9590

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
610 South Canal Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607

RE: Decision on Application for Further Review of Protest No. 3901-95-101230, filed May 26, 1995, concerning the classification of a fire escape ladder

Dear Sir:

This is a decision on a protest timely filed on May 26, 1995, against your decision in the classification and liquidation of ten entries of fire escape ladders, entered in November 1994.


You classified the merchandise under subheading 5609.00.3000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), the provision for "Articles of yarn, strip or the like of heading 5404 or 5405, twine, cordage, rope or cables, not elsewhere specified or included: Of man-made fibers," with an applicable duty rate in 1994 of 9 (now 8.1) percent ad valorem.

The protestant claims that the goods should be classified in subheading 3926.90.9590, HTSUSA, the provision for "Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914: Other: Other, Other," with an applicable duty rate of 5.3 percent ad valorem.

The subject article is identified as a "First Alert Fire Escape Ladder Model EL100." Marketing/informational literature submitted with the protest indicates that the item, which -2-
consists of five separate components or materials, is an unfolding ladder designed to be used as an emergency escape from the second story of a residence. The fully extended ladder is said to measure approximately 13 feet in length. It is composed of: rope measuring approximately 26 feet in length, made from man-made fibers, and tested to support 1500 pounds; a Velcro wrap to secure the ladder when folded; ten plastic rungs (with bushings), each tested to support 350 pounds; 20 plastic "standoffs," which rest against the dwelling wall and help to stabilize the rungs; and 2 metal hooks which attach to a window sill. The values and weights of the individual component materials are listed below:

Component Value Weight

Plastic rungs, bushings, $17.869 3940 grams and standoffs
Metal hooks 2.384 1010 grams
Rope 3.456 575 grams
Velcro wrap and retail pack 2.759 873 grams with manual
Assorted screws 0.321 7 grams

TOTAL $26.789 6405 grams


Whether the fire escape ladder is properly classified in subheading 5609.00.3000, HTSUSA, as an article of rope not elsewhere specified or included; or in subheading 3926.90.9590, HTSUSA, as an other article of plastics.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUS by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI. -3-

Among other goods, heading 5609, HTSUS, provides for articles of twine, cordage, rope or cables, not elsewhere specified or included. The EN to heading 5609 indicate that the heading covers articles of twine, cordage, rope or cables of heading 5607, other than those covered by a more specific heading in the Nomenclature. The EN further state that the heading includes rope, etc., cut to length and looped at one or both ends, or fitted with tags, rings, hooks, etc. (e.g., clothes lines, towing ropes), ships' fenders, unloading cushions, rope ladders...etc.

Although rope is one of the fire escape ladder's essential components, the ladder is more specifically described as an article which includes rope (in addition to plastics, metal, etc.), rather than as an article of rope. Further, since the ladder's rungs are composed entirely of plastics, we find that the article cannot be accurately described as a rope ladder.

Heading 3926, HTSUS, covers other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914. The EN to heading 3926 indicate that the heading covers articles of plastics not elsewhere specified or included. Although plastics comprise one or more of the fire escape ladder's essential components, it remains to be seen whether the entire good is classifiable as an other article of plastics. The fire escape ladder cannot be classified by reference to GRI 1 because its individual components are classifiable in different headings, most notably, headings 5609 and 3926, HTSUS. In pertinent part, GRI 2(b) states:

The classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3.

GRI 3(a) states, in pertinent part, that:
when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods. -4-

We next look to GRI 3(b), which in pertinent part states:

Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

In pertinent part, Explanatory Note IX to GRI 3(b) indicates that:

[f]or purposes of this Rule, composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

In this case, the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole which fits the EN description of a composite article. Separating the rungs from the rope would not be practical, as the resulting product would no longer function as, nor be, a ladder.

In order to determine the essential character of the composite article, we next view Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b), which provides the following guidance:

The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

The rope's role is significant in that it must bear the load placed upon it - perhaps as much as, or more than, the 1500 pounds it has been tested to hold. A successful escape from a second story fire, however, would seemingly be enhanced by the presence of steps or rungs which, if properly attached to rope, would produce a ladder. Mindful that each plastic rung of the fire escape ladder is also tested to bear a load of 350 pounds, and that the rungs, bushings, and standoffs (all composed of -5-
plastics) comprise approximately 67 percent and 61 percent of the fire escape ladder's value and weight, respectively, we find that the components of plastics provide the composite good with its essential character.


The "First Alert Fire Escape Ladder Model EL100" is classified in subheading 3926.90.9590, HTSUSA, as an other article of plastics. The applicable duty rate is 5.3 percent ad valorem.

Since reclassification of the merchandise as indicated above will result in a lower rate of duty than assessed, you are instructed to allow the protest in full. A copy of this decision should be attached to the Form 19 to be returned to the protestant.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision should be mailed by your office to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing of the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision, 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 to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, the Freedom of Information Act, and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director

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