Customs and Border Protection charges (Tonnage Tax / Light Money / User Fees)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection charges are unified for the whole of the United Sates and are briefly outlined as follows:  

A foreign vessel arriving at a US port from a foreign port will be assessed regular and special tonnage taxes, and a duty entitled light money.

Regular tonnage tax is levied according to the vessel's Net Tonnage and last port of call as follows:  

Fiscal
years
1991
through
2002
For
each
fiscal
year
thereafter
USD per NT
on all vessels which shall be entered in any port of the United States from any foreign place in North America, Central America, the West Indies, Bahama Islands, Bermuda Islands, Newfoundland, or the coast of South America bordering on the Caribbean Sea above and including the mouth of the Orinoco River, and Greenland. 0.09 0.02
on all vessels which shall be entered in any port of the United States from any other foreign port. 0.27 0.06


However, a vessel which arrives in any port of the United States with cargo taken from two or more ports at which different rates are applicable, tonnage tax shall be collected at the higher rate regardless of last port of call.

Tonnage tax payments are capped at 5 payments at the maximum rate and 5 payments at the minimum rate during a tonnage year. This means that the current maximum assessment of tonnage tax may amount to USD 0.30 per Net Ton per tonnage year for those vessels engaged in alternating trade.

The tonnage year is computed from the date of the first entry of the vessel concerned, without regard to the rate of payment made at that entry, and expires on the day preceding the corresponding date of the following year.

Light money and special tax are levied in addition to regular tonnage tax on all foreign vessels of nations that are not exempted by treaties, Presidential proclamations, or orders of the Secretary of Treasury, according to where the vessel was built. If the vessel was built in the United States then light money of USD 0.50 per Net Ton and special tonnage tax of USD 0.30 per Net Ton will apply. If the vessel was not built in the United States then the rate of USD 0.50 per Net Ton will apply for each charge.


In addition
to the regular and special tonnage taxes and light money as mentioned above, a foreign vessel entering from a foreign port or place where vessels of the United States are not ordinarily permitted to trade and enter are subject to a special tonnage tax of USD 2.00 per Net Ton plus light money of USD 0.50 per Net Ton.

A vessel will be exempt from payment of tonnage taxes and light money if:

  • it arrives in distress.

  • it arrives in port for bunkers (including water), sea stores, or ship's stores; transacts no other business and departs within 24 hours after arrival.

  • it is ordered into port by order of U.S. naval authorities and transacts no business in port other than the taking of bunkers, sea stores, or ship's stores.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection user fees are levied for each port of call, subject to a cap of 15 calls per calendar year, as follows:

Commercial vessels are charged at the rate of USD 437 per call effective 1 April 2007 (Previously USD 397 per call), with a maximum of USD 5,955 during a calendar year.

Bulk carriers arriving from Canada or Mexico are charged at the rate of USD 110 per call effective 1 April 2007 (Previously USD 100 per call), with a maximum of USD 1,500 during a calendar year.

For those vessels engaged in alternating trade, vessels that pay both the USD 437 and USD 110 vessel fees, the maximum fee of USD 5,955 would apply. The only exemption is for those vessels arriving from another U.S. port for bunkers only. 

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