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HQ 967308

April 4, 2005

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 967308 DSS


TARIFF NO: 7307.29.0090

Port Director
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
610 S. Canal Street
Chicago, IL 60173
Attn: Trade Operations

RE: Further Review of Protest No. 3901-04-100944; SAFLOK® quick couplers and dust cap

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest No. 3901-04-100944 filed by Global Concepts Inc. (protestant), against your decision regarding the classification of certain SAFLOK® quick couplers and dust cap under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The articles under protest consist of stainless steel couplers that connect different sections of tubes and hoses and dust caps which fit on the end of tubes and hoses. There is a female coupler (SAFLOK-D), a male adaptor for the coupler (SAFLOK-A) and a dust cap (SAFLOK-DC); the adaptor and coupler are described as a “coupling unit.” The male adaptor is internally threaded on one end and plain or unthreaded on the other end. The female coupler is internally threaded on one end and plain or unthreaded on the other end. The unthreaded end could be described as a recessed hollow cylinder into which a gasket is seated. The coupler has two locking cam arms. The grooved end of the adaptor is inserted into the unthreaded end of the coupler. The threaded end of the coupler connects to one tube or hose and the threaded end of the adaptor connects to another tube or hose. Once the adaptor and coupler are joined together, the completed coupling unit is sealed by moving the locking arms into position. The fittings are described as being used to connect tubes and hoses for the transportation of high value/high risk liquid chemicals.

The dust cap is open on one end and closed on the other end. The open end is not threaded. The dust cap also has locking arms. The dust cap is used to seal or close a tube or hose end during periods in which no chemicals are being transported.

At liquidation, you classified the entry under protest under subheading 7307.29.00, HTSUS, as other pipe or tube fittings. The protestant advocates classification of the articles under subheading 7307.22.10, HTSUS, as pipe fittings, threaded sleeve couplings.

The instant articles were entered on January 23, 2003. The entry was liquidated on April 9, 2004. The protest was filed on July 8, 2004.


What is the classification of the couplers and dust cap under the HTSUS?


Initially we note that the protest was timely filed (i.e., within 90 days after but not before the notice of liquidation; see 19 U.S.C. 1514 (c)(3)(A)) and the matter is protestable (see 19 U.S.C. 1514 (a)(2) and (5)).

Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). 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 GRIs may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the Harmonized System. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The HTSUSA provisions (2003) under consideration are as follows:

7307 Tube or pipe fittings (for example, couplings, elbows, sleeves) of iron or steel: Other, of stainless steel:
Threaded elbows, bends and sleeves:
Sleeves (couplings). . . .
7307.29.00 Other:
7307.29.0090 Other. . . .

Other articles of iron or steel:
7326.90.8587 Other. . . .

EN 73.07 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

This heading covers fittings of iron or steel, mainly used for connecting the bores of two tubes together, or for connecting a tube to some other apparatus, or for closing the tube aperture. This heading does not however cover articles used for installing pipes and tubes but which do not form an integral part of the bore, (e.g., hangers, stays and similar supports which merely fix or support the tubes and pipes on walls, clamping or tightening bands or collars (hose clips) used for clamping flexible tubing or hose to rigid piping, taps, connecting pieces, etc.) (heading 73.25 or 73.26).

The connection is obtained:

- by screwing, when using cast iron or steel threaded fittings; . . .

- or by contact, when using removable steel fittings . . . .

[All emphasis in original.]

The port liquidated the entries under protest under subheading 7307.29.00, HTSUS, as stainless steel couplings, other, other. The protestant argues that the instant couplers are classified under subheading 7307.22.10, HTSUS, as threaded sleeves/couplings. The protestant argues that neither the general notes or ENs define the tariff term “sleeve (couplings),” and because of this, classification is based on the common and commercial definition. Both of these classifications presuppose that the couplers are used as pipe or tube fittings rather than hose fittings because iron or steel pipe or tube fittings fall under heading 7307, HTSUS; hose fittings, however, do not fall under heading 7307, HTSUS.

In HQ 088393, dated March 26, 1991, hose fittings were classified under heading 7326, HTSUS. In HQ 088393, Customs (now CBP) stated:

[a]though a “hose” may be considered a “tube” in common meaning, they are not interchangeable terms for tariff purposes . . . Under the TSUS [Tariff Schedules of the United States], Customs has consistently held that hose fittings are not properly classifiable under the provision for tube or pipe fittings . . . Customs finds no reason to change the classification of hose fittings as previously addressed under the TSUS.

See also HQ 956743, dated January 24, 1995 (distinguishing between pipe/tube fittings of heading 7307 and hose fittings).

However, if a fitting is designed in such a manner where it can be used to connect both tubes and pipes and hose, for example, if one end is designed to connect tubes/pipes and the other end is designed to connect to hose, it meets the definition of pipe or tube fitting. In NY K87518, dated July 21, 2004, CBP classified a stainless steel fitting that connected both tubes and hoses (as the instant articles do) under heading 7307, HTSUS. The coupling in NY K87518 was externally swaged on one end, and was designed to connect to composite hose; it was NPT threaded on the other end to connect to couplings or pipes. The steel couplings were made for a variety of applications. As was stated in NY K87518, if a steel coupling is designed to couple both hoses and tubes or pipes, then it meets the definition of a pipe or tube fitting, and falls under heading 7307, HTSUS. The instant couplings also connect both hoses and tubes or pipes. Moreover, the supplementary material submitted by the protestant indicates that the connectors couple “tubular members.” Therefore, the instant articles fall under 7307, HTSUS.

The protestant cites the case of Continental Mfg. Co. et al. v. United States, 82 Cust. Ct. 187, C.D. 4800 (1979), for the proposition that tariff terms are to be defined in their “commonly received and popular sense,” in the absence of a contrary legislative intent, or proof of a commercial designation, if that differs from the ordinary understanding of the term. Protestant cites Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged), which defines, in relevant part, a coupling as “a device that serves to couple or connect the ends of adjacent parts or objects.” It also defines a sleeve coupling, in relevant part, as “a piece of pipe or thimble for covering a joint or for coupling two lengths of piping.” Protestant also cites Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, which states that: “A pipe coupling is a hollow cylinder with internal pipe threads, used to join two sections of externally threaded pipe.” The protestant argues that the male connector and female adaptor fall under this definition of sleeve coupling.

Subheading 7307.22, HTSUS, covers elbows, bends and sleeves. To couple merely means to join or connect together. Many different types of fittings such as those listed in EN 73.07 couple together two lengths of pipe. Elbows and bends, for example, couple or connect two lengths of pipe.

According to the American Pipe Fittings Association (APFA), sleeves or sleeve couplings are produced in the following manner. Steel pipe or tube is the starting material from which sleeve couplings are produced. The pipe is cut to the required length, faced and chamfered (machined/milled and beveled) and internal treads are cut on both ends, i.e., it is internally threaded. A sleeve coupling is a fairly simple type of fitting, used to join two sections of pipe or tube in a straight line. A conventional sleeve coupling has a female opening on either end; it may be used with an extension piece having a female connection on one end and a male (external) connection on the other end.

In this instance, the common and commercial definitions are substantially the same. However, the instant couplers do not fall under this definition. They are not hollow, threaded cylinders that connect two tubes. Instead, the female coupler and male adaptor each attach to separate sections of tube or hose, then are fitted together, utilizing special locking cam arms to press the gasket down to form a seal around the transport tube or hose. A sleeve coupling and quick coupler are two different types of fittings. The female coupling and male adaptor are classified under subheading 7307.29.0090, HTSUSA, as: “Tube or pipe fittings (for example, couplings, elbows, sleeves) of iron or steel: Other, of stainless steel: Other: Other.”

The dust cap is a fitting used to close a tube aperture, thus it falls under heading 7307, HTSUS. It is not threaded. Therefore, the dust cap is also classified under subheading 7307.29.0090, HTSUSA, as: “Tube or pipe fittings (for example, couplings, elbows, sleeves) of iron or steel: Other, of stainless steel: Other: Other.”


The instant SAFLOK-D, -A, and -DC couplers and dust cap are classified under subheading 7307.29.0090, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Tube or pipe fittings (for example, couplings, elbows, sleeves) of iron or steel: Other, of stainless steel: Other: Other.” The 2003 column one, general rate of duty is 5 percent ad valorem. Duty rates are provided for convenience only and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.

You should DENY the protest. In accordance with the Protest/Petition Processing Handbook (CIS HB, June 2002, pp. 18 and 21), 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 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 make the decision available to CBP personnel, and to the public on the CBP Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.cbp.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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