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HQ 963312

JUNE 7, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963312 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 7312.10.60

Port Director of Customs
2831 Talleyrand Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32206

RE: Protest 1803-99-100232; Net Lines of Polypropylene and Stainless Steel

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on protest 1803-99-100232, filed against your classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of Stan Mar Combination Net Lines. The entries under protest were liquidated on September 3 and October 8, 1999, and this protest timely filed on October 26, 1999. Various samples were submitted.


The ropes under protest are identified as combination net lines, of polypropylene and stainless steel construction. Multiple strands of stainless steel, each strand made from individual wires twisted together, are wound with polypropylene rope to make a combination rope. Multiple strands of the combination ropes are then wound together around a plastic core to form the net lines. These lines are used to attach fish nets to a vessel and support them during fishing operations.

Based on an administrative ruling which Customs issued in 1989, the entries were liquidated under a provision of heading 5607, HTSUS, for twine, cordage, ropes and cables. On protest, counsel for the importer disputes the applicability of this ruling to the merchandise at issue, and maintains that the net lines are provided for in heading 7312, HTSUS, as stranded wire, ropes and cables, of iron or steel, not electrically insulated. He asserts that the net lines are composite goods under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3(b), HTSUS, consisting of different materials or components. These are classifiable
according to their essential character, which counsel claims is imparted by the stainless steel wire. The basis for this claim is that the steel constitutes between 72.5% to nearly 74% of the total weight of the net lines, and 60% of the lines’ value. According to counsel, these factors militate in favor of the metal wire being the material or component which imparts the essential character to the whole. Equally significant is counsel’s claim that the stainless steel wires impart the strength necessary to towing and supporting fishing nets - the lines’ intended end use service application – as well as resistance to corrosion in a marine environment.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

5607 Twine, cordage, ropes and cables, whether or not plaited or braided and whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or sheathed with rubber or plastics:

Of polyethylene or polypropylene:

5607.49 Other:

Other, not braided or plaited:


7312 Stranded wire, ropes, cables, plaited bands, slings and the like, of iron or steel, not electrically insulated:

Ropes, cables and cordage other than stranded wire:

Of stainless steel:

7312.10.60 Other


Whether the net lines are composite goods; whether the stainless steel component imparts the essential to the whole.


Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. GRI 3(b) states in part that composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components are to be classified as if consisting of the material or component which gives them their essential character.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. Though not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The net lines under protest are prima facie classifiable in heading 5607 and in heading 7312. Each heading, however, refers to part only of the materials in the line. In HQ 082417, dated March 9, 1989, the authority under which the entries under protest were liquidated, a combination rope, substantially similar in construction to the ones under protest here, was found to be classifiable in subheading 5607.49.25, HTSUS. Because the article was a textile rope reinforced with wire, that is, one predominantly constructed of polypropylene fibers, with the wires present only for reinforcement, the ruling concluded that the textile portion imparted the essential character to the whole. We find several bases on which to conclude that HQ 082417 is not precedent for classifying the net lines under protest here. First, that ruling noted that the EC Nomenclature Committee, on behalf of the European Community, had recently classified a similar rope in heading 5607 of the Harmonized System, and the Customs Service was being asked to acquiesce in that ruling. Second, HQ 082417 was based in part on a heading 5607 EN (p. 857 of the present 5607 ENs), that textile yarn reinforced with metal thread is always classified [in heading 5607]. The ruling concluded that metal thread is another term for wire as used in the Explanatory Notes. We agree with counsel that the common meaning of the term metal thread does not include metal wire. The probative value of the cited EN in this case is therefore lessened . Lastly, HQ 082417 contained no cost or value data, or statements as to the weight either of the constituent materials or the finished rope, nor was there any indication of the ropes’ intended end use service application.

The respective components’ weight and value, as well as the role of the constituent materials in relation to the use of the completed good, are relevant factors which the ENs authorize Customs to consider in making essential character determinations. In this case, the stainless steel wires impart strength, and are compatible with the ropes’ towing and support functions in a marine environment. The polypropylene appears necessary only so that the twine used to tie the netting to the net line will not slip. The facts in this case compel the conclusion that it is the stainless steel wires which impart the essential character to the rope. They are to be classified as if consisting only of the stainless steel wire component.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the combination net lines or ropes are provided for in heading 7312. They are classifiable in subheading 7312.10.60, HTSUS. HQ 082417, dated March 9, 1989, is distinguished.

The protest should be ALLOWED. In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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