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§ 316. Use of foreign vessels in United States ports

(a) Towing vessels
It shall be unlawful for any vessel not wholly owned by a person who is a citizen of the United States within the meaning of the laws respecting the documentation of vessels and not having in force a certificate of documentation issued under section 12106 of title 46 to tow any vessel other than a vessel in distress, from any port or place in the United States, its Territories or possessions, embraced within the coastwise laws of the United States, to any other port or place within the same, either directly or by way of a foreign port or place, or to do any part of such towing, or to tow any such vessel, from point to point within the harbors of such places, or to tow any vessel transporting valueless material or any dredged material, regardless of whether it has commercial value, from a point or place in the United States or a point or place on the high seas within the Exclusive Economic Zone as defined in the Presidential Proclamation of March 10, 1983, to another point or place in the United States or a point or place on the high seas within that Exclusive Economic Zone. The owner and master of any vessel towing another vessel in violation of the provisions of this section shall each be liable to a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $1,000, which fines shall constitute liens upon the offending vessel enforceable through the district court of the United States for any district in which such vessel may be found, and clearance shall not be granted to such vessel until the fines have been paid. The towing vessel shall also be further liable to a penalty of $50 per ton on the measurement of every vessel towed in violation of this section, which sum may be recovered by way of libel or suit.
(b) “Person” defined
The term “person” as used in subsection (a) of this section, shall be held to include persons, firms, partnerships, associations, organizations, and corporations, doing business or existing under or by the authority of the laws of the United States, or of any State, Territory, district, or other subdivision thereof.
(c) Foreign railroad companies using ferries, tugboats, or towboats
Any foreign railroad company or corporation, whose road enters the United States by means of a ferry, tugboat, or towboat, may own such vessel and operate the same in connection with the water transportation of the passenger, freight, express, baggage, and mail cars used by such road, together with the passengers, freight, express matter, baggage, and mails transported in such cars, without being subject to any other or different restrictions than those imposed by law on any vessel of the United States entering ports of the United States from ports in the same foreign country: Provided, That except as authorized by section 883 of this Appendix, such ferry, tugboat, or towboat shall not, under penalty of forfeiture, be used in connection with the transportation of any merchandise shipped from any port or place in the United States, its Territories or possessions, embraced within the coastwise laws of the United States, to any other port or place within the same.
(d) Salvaging operations by foreign vessels
No foreign vessel shall, under penalty of forfeiture, engage in salvaging operations on the Atlantic or Pacific coast of the United States, in any portion of the Great Lakes or their connecting or tributary waters, including any portion of the Saint Lawrence River through which the international boundary line extends, or in territorial waters of the United States on the Gulf of Mexico, except when authorized by a treaty or in accordance with the provisions of section 725 of this Appendix: Provided, however, That if, on investigation, the Commissioner of Customs is satisfied that no suitable vessel wholly owned by a person who is a citizen of the United States and documented under the laws of the United States or numbered pursuant to the Act of June 7, 1918, as amended (46 U.S.C. 288), is available in any particular locality he may authorize the use of a foreign vessel or vessels in salvaging operations in that locality and no penalty shall be incurred for such authorized use.
(e) Operations permitted by treaty
Nothing in this section shall be held or construed to prohibit or restrict any assistance to vessels or salvage operations authorized by article II of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain “concerning reciprocal rights for United States and Canada in the conveyance of prisoners and wrecking and salvage” signed at Washington, May 18, 1908 (35 Stat. 2036), or by the treaty between the United States and Mexico “to facilitate assistance to and salvage of vessels in territorial waters”, signed at Mexico City, June 13, 1935 (49 Stat. 3359).

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