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HQ 115560

March 28, 2002

VES-3-02-RR:IT:EC 115560 LLO


Chris Dufault
19112 Biddle
Irvine, California 92612

RE: Coastwise Trade; 46 U.S.C. App. 883; Amphibious Vehicle; Vessels

Dear Mr. Dufault:

We received your letter dated November 9, 2001, regarding the conversion of your Jeep Wrangler in China for your own personal amphibious use and requesting a ruling as to its permissibility so long as emissions standards are met and US. mandated safety equipment is maintained. Our ruling on this matter is set forth below.


A U.S. conforming Jeep Wrangler will be shipped to China and converted for amphibious use. The work will be done in a free trade zone, then the vehicle will be shipped back to California. Modifications to the drive train are planned in the form of placement of specialized seals around drive axles and wheel hubs, as well as installations of a power take off unit to drive a new rear propeller. No modifications of the engine are expected to occur. The body will be modified by the installation of supports for hull superstructure, relocating radiator flow to an amphibious compliant location. Additionally, headlights, taillights and other markers will be relocated in compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. You state that the vehicle will be for personal use.


Whether the subject vehicle, once modified, will constitute a vessel? If deemed a vessel, whether subject vessel is U.S. or foreign built? If deemed a vessel, whether eligible for U.S. Coast Guard vessel documentation?


Under title 19, United States Code, §1401 a vessel is defined as “every description of water craft or other contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation in water, but does not include aircraft.” Based upon the modifications that you indicate will be made to your Jeep Wrangler to allow for amphibious use of the vehicle, once the modifications take place in China, the vehicle will be deemed a vessel. Since the amphibious use will allow the vehicle to be capable of transportation in water, it will be considered a vessel under Customs regulations.


The facts provided indicate that prior to being shipped to China, the Jeep Wrangler will be a vehicle. Once the various conversions outlined in the facts have occurred in China, the vehicle will become capable of amphibious use, making it classifiable as a vessel under Customs regulations as discussed above in issue one. Since the vehicle will become a vessel through modifications and installations in China, the vessel will be considered foreign built.

The United States Customs Service has adopted the provisions in the Coast Guard regulations, title 46 C.F.R. §67.09-3 as guidelines for its determinations of whether a vessel that is exempt from documentation because it weighs less than 5 net tons, may be considered built in the United States and therefore, used in coastwise trade.

Section 67.09-3 states that a vessel is considered built in the United States if:
all major components of its hull and superstructure are fabricated in the United States, and; the vessel is assembled entirely in the United States.

In this situation, your Jeep Wrangler will be exported to China and “assembled” through various modifications and installations. The facts do not indicate whether or not the components will be fabricated in the United States. However, both prerequisites above must be met in order for a vessel to be deemed U.S. built. Since the vessel will not meet the second prerequisite outlined above, the Jeep once modified so as to become a vessel, will not meet all of the requirements necessary to be considered U.S. built.


Under title 46 U.S.C. §12102 vessels that are eligible for documentation include those that weigh at least 5 net tons. In this instance, the vehicle/vessel in question would be considered to be less than this designated amount, and therefore, cannot be documented by the U.S. Coast Guard. Since this vessel is of less than 5 net tons, and is not eligible for such a Coast Guard determination, Customs must make the determination regarding build for purposes of the coastwise laws.

Qualified vessels of less than 5 net tons are not precluded from engaging in the coastwise trade simply because they cannot be documented under the laws of the United States. Under title 19, Code of Federal Regulations, §4.80 (a)(2), no vessel exempt from documentation (e.g. of less than 5 net tons) shall transport any passengers or merchandise between U.S. coastwise points unless the vessel is owned by a citizen of the United States and is entitled to or, except for its tonnage, would be entitled to be documented with a coastwise license.

The facts provided indicate that you plan to use the amphibious vehicle, or vessel, for personal use only. Generally, the coastwise laws prohibit the transportation of merchandise or passengers between points in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws in any vessel other than a vessel built in and documented under the laws of the U.S. and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States. So long as your use of the vessel is for personal use and not for use in the coastwise trade, the conversion of your amphibious capable vehicle for personal amphibious use, is permissible.

Any questions or concerns you have regarding emissions and U.S. mandated safety equipment should be directed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation or the U.S Coast Guard respectively.


A vehicle with amphibious capabilities that enables it to be used as a means of transportation in water constitutes a vessel under 19 C.F.R. §4.0.

A vehicle undergoing major modifications abroad, performed by non-U.S. residents, within non-U.S. components, which create the capability to be used as a means of transportation in water, is considered to be foreign built under 46 C.F.R. §67.09-3.

Under title 46 U.S.C. App. §12102 a vessel must be of at least 5 net tons in order to be eligible for documentation by the U.S. Coast Guard.


Larry L. Burton

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