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HQ 115471

October 1, 2001



Dave Wright
Vice President Operations
Superior Marine Services Incorporated
2574 N. University Drive, Suite 211
Sunrise, Florida 33322

Dear Sir:

We received your letter dated August 20, 2001 requesting a ruling on the permissibility of using foreign flag vessels to transport short tons of boulders from Tampa, Florida to offshore zones. Our ruling on this matter follows.


Surveyor Marine Services Incorporated intends to transport 126,000 short tons of boulders from Tampa, Florida to offshore zones that range from 73 miles to 135 miles from the port of Tampa, Florida. The transportation contractor is to provide vessels outfitted for loading and transporting Rip Rap Boulders ranging in size from 2-4 feet each and weighing approximately 1000-12,000 pounds each.


Title 46, united States Code Appendix, section 883 (46 U.S.C. App. §883) often called the “Jones Act,” provides in part that no merchandise shall be transported between points in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws either directly or via a foreign port, or for any part of the transportation, in any vessel other than a vessel built in and documented under the laws of the United States and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States (i.e., a coastwise-qualified vessel).

All points within the territorial waters of the United States are subject to coastwise laws. The territorial waters of the United States are defined as the belt 3 nautical miles wide, adjacent to the coast of the United States and seaward of the territorial sea baseline.

Title 43 U.S.C. §1333(a) provides in pertinent part, that the laws of the United States are extended to “subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf Land and to all artificial islands, and all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be erected thereon for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing resources therefrom to the same extent as if the outer Continental shelf were an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction located within a state.

In this situation, the Vice president of Operations for Superior Marine Services, Inc., Dave Wright, has indicated that the rip-rap boulders will be transported from the Port of Tampa, Florida and unloaded in the water at specific coordinates in offshore zones, not at a drilling platform, artificial island, or other installation or similar structure. Since the boulders are to be dropped in the water at coordinates that fall outside of the 3 mile territorial waters of the United States, no coastwise trade or Jones Act violation will occur. In such a case, the company can use either a United States flag vessel, or a foreign flag vessel.


Vessels which transport cargo between a coastwise point, and a point that falls outside of United States territorial waters and which does not constitute a device or installation that is permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, do not engage in coastwise trade.


Larry L. Burton

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