CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960922 JAS

David P. Sanders, Esq.
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae L.L.P.
1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009-5728

RE: NY B 81965 Modified; Optical Fiber Connectors, Adapters, and Receptacles not Incorporating Optical Elements; Ceramic Articles Used to Join and Align Connectors to Facilitate Transmission of Signals Through Optical Fiber Cables; Ceramic Ferrules of Porcelain or China, Other Ceramic Articles, Composite Goods, Essential Character, GRI 3; GRI 6

Dear Mr. Sanders:

In a letter, dated September 12, 1997, on behalf of Alcoa Fujikura, Ltd., you request reconsideration of a ruling on the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of certain optical fiber adapters and receptacles. You presented additional facts and legal arguments at a meeting in our office on April 23, 1998, which you confirmed in a memorandum of the same date. Pursuant to section 625(c)(1), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed modification of NY B81965 was published on July 1, 199, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 26. No comments were received in response to that notice.


In NY B81965, dated February 28, 1997, the Chief, National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, held, among other things, that certain ceramic adapters and receptacles used in the transmission of signals through optical fibers, were classifiable in subheading 6914.90.80, HTSUS, as other ceramic articles not of porcelain or china. The adapters and receptacles in issue were - 2 -

found to be composite goods made up of different components, and that under General Interpretative Rule 3(b), HTSUS, the zirconium oxide split sleeves or mating sleeves in each imparted the essential character to the whole. The adapter model C002499 was held to be classifiable in subheading 7419.99.50, HTSUS, because the mating sleeve was of phosphor bronze. The classification of this article is not in issue here.

The adapters in issue are the models C023450, C042420 and C042404, while the receptacles are the models C024554 and C024562. Each adapter consists of multiple plastic dust protection caps, stainless steel mounting clips, and either two, four or five zirconium oxide tubes called split sleeves or mating sleeves, with an equal number of sleeve holders. All components are enclosed in a plastic housing. Optical connectors of the same or different sizes are press fit into each end of a split sleeve within each adapter. An optical connector consists of a plastic housing incorporating a ferrule into which an optical fiber is fixed. The function of the adapters in issue is to align the ferrules in both connectors within the split sleeve to position and connect the fibers, thereby enabling the transmission of an optical signal. The receptacles in issue function in the same way to connect standard industry connectors to active devices such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) to permit optical signals to travel between them. The zirconium oxide split sleeves in each adapter and receptacle prevent light loss which would compromise the strength of the optical signal. It is noted that the adapters and receptacles in issue will always have one or more zirconium oxide split sleeves but it is the connectors that incorporate the ferrules. You contend that the adapters and receptacles in issue are classifiable in subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS, as this provision, in your opinion, encompasses either ceramic ferrules imported alone, ceramic ferrules imported with mating sleeves, or ceramic mating sleeves of alumina or zirconia imported alone.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

6914 Other ceramic articles:

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Of porcelain or china:

6914.10.40 Ceramic ferrules of porcelain or china, not exceeding 3 mm in diameter or 25 mm in lehgth, having a fiber channel opening and/or ceramic mating sleeves of alumina or zirconia...Free

6914.10.80 Other

6914.90 Other:

6914.90.40 Ceramic ferrules of alumina or zirconia, not exceeding 3 mm in diameter or 25 mm in length, having a fiber channel opening and/or ceramic mating sleeves of alumina or zirconia...Free

6914.90.80 Other


Whether the optical fiber adapters and receptacles in issue, classifiable under GRI 3(b) as if consisting only of the split sleeve component of zirconium oxide, are described in subheading 6914.90.40.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. GRI 6 states, in part, that the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be in accordance with the terms of those subheadings, and that GRIs 1 through 5 may be applied, with appropriate substitution of terms.

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It is well settled that drafters of statutory provisions are presumed to be versed in ordinary rules of grammatical construction. However, where a statutory provision is ambiguous or susceptible of more than one construction, the interpretation that removes the ambiguity and which represents the more likely legislative intent is preferred.

The decision in NY B81965 with respect to the adapters and receptacles in issue was predicated on the belief that subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS, as drafted, encompassed only ceramic ferrules having the requisite dimensions, imported either with a fiber channel opening or a ceramic mating sleeve of alumina or zirconia. In all cases, it was felt, the ferrule must be present, so that a ceramic mating sleeve, imported alone, or an article classifiable as if consisting only of a ceramic mating sleeve, could not be classified in that subheading.

You now cite a draft memorandum from the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) to the House Ways and Means Committee that, in your opinion, is a source of legislative history that reflects the proper interpretation of the provision. The memorandum provided technical comments on a proposal to create a new heading 9902.69.14, HTSUS, to temporarily suspend duty on ceramic ferrules and mating sleeves of either alumina or zirconia. Although the proposed new heading was never enacted, it is clearly linked to the Presidential Proclamation subsequently issued to create subheadings 6914.10.40 and 6914.90.40. Accordingly, the following explanation, which appears in the draft memorandum under the heading Product description(s) and uses, is relevant:

The subject goods are parts of connectors used to join and align optical fibers. A ceramic ferrule is a tubular object whose inside diameter is precisely sized to accommodate a single optical fiber, one of which is inserted at each end of the ferrule. A mating sleeve is a larger tubular object with a longitudinal slit, and is designed to hold a ferrule in place (Emphasis added).

It is clear from the draft memorandum that the connectors are not made in the United States and that the relatively high cost of the ferrules and the mating sleeves represents a large portion of the total cost of the connectors. Thus, the proposed legislation sought duty-free status both for the ferrules and for the mating sleeves. - 5 -

The application of ordinary rules of grammatical construction, together with our understanding of the apparent intent of the legislation, as reflected in the draft USITC memorandum, leads us to conclude that subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS, accords duty-free entry to: (1) separately imported ceramic ferrules of alumina or zirconia having both the requisite dimensions and a fiber channel opening; (2) such ferrules and ceramic mating sleeves of alumina or zirconia imported together, whether or not in even numbers; and, (3) ceramic mating sleeves of alumina or zirconia imported separately.

Zirconium oxide mating sleeves are described both in subheading 6914.10.40, HTSUS, and in subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS. Neither subheading provides a description for the good that is more specific than the other. Under the authority of GRI 3(c), HTSUS, made applicable at the subheading level by GRI 6, the optical fiber adapters and receptacles in issue, classifiable as if consisting of the zirconium oxide mating sleeves, are classifiable in subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS, as that subheading occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration.


Optical fiber adapter models C023450, C042420 and C042404, and receptacle models C024554 and C024562, all classifiable as if consisting only of a zirconium oxide mating sleeve, are provided for in heading 6914. They are classifiable in subheading 6914.90.40, HTSUS.

NY B81965, dated September 12, 1997, is modified accordingly. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin. Publication of rulings or decisions pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1) does not constitute a change of practice or position in accordance with section 177.10(c)(1), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 177.10(c)(1)).


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division