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HQ H005913

January 26, 2007

VES-3-02-RR:BSTC:CCI H005913 CK


Bea Wright
Maersk Line Los Angeles
APM Terminals
2500 Navy Way
Terminal Island, CA 90731

RE: Coastwise transportation; passengers; 46 U.S.C. §55103

Dear Ms. Wright:

In your letter transmitted by facsimile on January 25, 2007, you requested that one Maersk Line Ltd. vessel manager be allowed to travel aboard the U.S.-flagged vessel S/L METEOR from Los Angeles, CA to Oakland, CA. Our ruling on your request follows.


One Maersk Line Ltd. (“Maersk”) vessel manager has requested to travel aboard the U.S.-flagged vessel S/L METEOR from Los Angeles, CA to Oakland, CA on January 29, 2007. The purpose for being aboard the vessel is to conduct a company-required audit of the vessel/crew and operations. This activity includes an inspection of the vessel, specifically the engine room, document books, deck, the overall condition of the vessel, as well as an assessment of the vessel’s repair requisitions.


Whether the vessel manager described above would be a passenger under the coastwise passenger statute, 46 U.S.C. §55103 (formerly 46 U.S.C. App. 289).


The coastwise passenger statute, 46 U.S.C. §55103(recodified from former 46 U.S.C. App. 289; Pub.L. 109-304 October 6, 2006) provides that no vessel may transport passengers between ports or places in the United States either directly or by way of a foreign port, upon a penalty of $300 for every passenger so transported and landed (see 19 CFR 4.80(b), unless it has been documented for the coastwise trade under chapter 121 of Title 46, United States Code. Under section 55103 (see 19 CFR 4.80a(a)(5)), a “passenger” is any person carried aboard a vessel who is not connected with the operation of the vessel, her navigation, ownership, or business (19 CFR 4.50(b)). In this regard, as resolved in a June 5, 2002, Customs Bulletin notice (Vol. 36, No. 23, p. 50, persons transported on a vessel would be passengers unless they were “directly and substantially” connected with the operation, navigation, ownership, or business of that vessel itself. In the current context, Headquarters ruling (HQ) 116752, of November 3, 2006, is instructive in explaining the operative administrative law applicable in this context, as follows:

[T]he Customs Service [now Customs and Border Protection (CBP)] has repeatedly ruled that if any persons are transported coastwise who are bona fide agents of the line or officers of companies acting as such agents and if such persons while on the voyage are concerned with observing and appraising the facilities offered, such personsare not ‘passengers’ under section 289 [now section 55103] and §4.50(b) (emphasis added) (HQ 103410, of May 5, 1978 (operations manager of freight line transported coastwise aboard freight line’s vessel to observe vessel’s operational pattern thereby deemed connected with operation and business of vessel so as not to be passenger when being transported for this purpose)).

HQ 116752 (emphasis added) (executive chef of cruise line transported aboard its vessel “to monitor and access the standards of [vessel’s culinary operation onboard” found to be connected with that vessel’s operation/business, and not considered passenger).

Further we note that in accordance with previous Headquarters rulings, workmen, technicians, or observers transported by vessel between ports of the United States are not classified as “passengers” within the meaning of section 4.50(b) and 46 U.S.C. §55103 if they are required to be on board to contribute to the accomplishment of the operation or navigation of the vessel during the voyage, or are on board because of a necessary vessel ownership or business interest during the voyage. HQ 101699 (November 5, 1975); see also HQ 116721 (September 25, 2006, quoting HQ 101699); and HQ H005405, dated January 17, 2007.

In the present case, one Maersk vessel manager boarding the S/L METEOR to conduct an audit of the vessel/crew and operations as described above is directly and substantially connected to the ownership, navigation, business and operation of the vessel and this individual is therefore not a passenger for purposes of 46 U.S.C. §55103.


Under the facts presented, the vessel manager described above is not a passenger for purposes of administering 46 U.S.C. §55103. Hence, the coastwise transportation of the Maersk vessel manager aboard the S/L METEOR would not be in violation of 46 U.S.C. §55103.


Glen E. Vereb

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