VES-10-02-RR:IT:EC 115646 GEV

Elizabeth P. Gilson, Esq.
383 Orange Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511

RE: Dredging; 46 U.S.C. App. § 292

Dear Ms. Gilson:

This is in reference to your letter dated April 10, 2002, with supporting documentation, on behalf of your client, the City of New Haven, Connecticut, requesting a ruling regarding a dredging project that is to occur in New Haven Harbor. Our ruling on this matter is set forth below.


The dredging project involves the burial of a high voltage, direct current electric transmission cable under the seabed in the federal navigation channel located in New Haven Harbor, and across Long Island Sound to Brookhaven, New York. Your description of the project, supplemented by the documentation you submitted, is as follows.

The cable company proposes to employ a “jet plow” to displace the seabed sediment and ultimately bury the cable 14 feet under the seabed within the navigation channel and six feet under the seabed in the open water portion of Long Island Sound. The jet plow equipment, known as the “Smartjet”, is a self-propelled, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) attached to the Dutch-flag cable-laying vessel CLV SEA SPIDER with appropriate tethering and communications cables. The Smartjet locates and follows the previously laid cable on the sea floor for its linear embedment process. Although the Smartjet is designed to operated just above the sea bottom, it is equipped with wheels for incidental sea floor contact.

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The Smartjet consists of two robust blades with multiple nozzles along the face of the blade. High pressure water is directed through the nozzles into the seabed, creating a fluidized area. The blades are mounted on a sled pulled along the seafloor by ship, in a manner that directs the fluidized sediment backward, away from the leading edge, and upward. As the Smartjet advances along the cable route incising the seabed, the submarine cable settles into the bottom of the jetted section. The marine sediments that are disturbed by the hydraulic pressure generally remain in the immediate area. During the process a small portion of the sediment is disbursed into the water column whereas the majority of the sediment settles out rapidly along the flanks of the jetted incision. Although a depression will be formed in the seabed surface as the sediment recompresses under its own weight, it is likely that most of the depression will disappear over time due to sediment transport and deposition.


Whether the use in United States territorial waters of a cable burial device as described in the FACTS portion of this ruling is an engagement in dredging for purposes of 46 U.S.C. App. § 292.


Title 46, United States Code Appendix, § 292 (46 U.S.C. App. § 292, the coastwise dredging statute), provides that with one exception not herein applicable, vessels may dredge in the navigable waters of the United States only if they meet the requirements of 46 U.S.C. App. § 883 (i.e., 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)).

Customs has long-held that “dredging” for purposes of 46 U.S.C. App. § 292 is the use of a vessel equipped with excavating machinery in digging up or otherwise removing submarine material. With respect to the use by cable-laying vessels of cable-burial devices employing a jetting action resulting in the emulsification of the seabed surrounding the cable, Customs has also long-held that such an operation does not constitute an engagement in “dredging” for purposes of the aforementioned statute. (see Customs ruling letter 109412, dated March 29, 1988, published as Customs Service Decision (C.S.D.) 88-7; see also Customs ruling letter 109882, dated December 2, 1988, published as C.S.D. 89-40)

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Accordingly, in view of the fact that the Smartjet is essentially the same device as those discussed in C.S.D.s 88-7 and 89-40, we reach the same conclusion in this case. The use of the Smartjet as described above does not constitute dredging for purposes of 46 U.S.C. App. § 292.


The use in United States territorial waters of a cable burial device described in the FACTS portion of this ruling is not an engagement in dredging for purposes of 46 U.S.C. App. § 292.


Larry L. Burton
Entry Procedures and Carriers Branch