Thursday, May 26, 2016
Ruling of the Week 2016.12: Avalanche Aribag
One of the things I find interesting about my job as that I have the opportunity to learn about all sorts of products that I might not ever see in my real life. One such product is the avalanche airbag. It never occurred to me that such a thing existed, but as soon as I read the words "avalanche" and "airbag" together, the concept made perfect sense. This is the item in question:
It is designed to keep the wearer "afloat" in the event of an avalanche. More information about the product is available here. Basically, it is a backpack that incorporates a sturdy balloon and an electrically powered fan to inflate it. Once inflated, the balloon prevents the wearer from being buried in snow.
In NY N274983, Customs was asked to classify this airbag enhanced backpack. My first thought was, "Oh no, this is going in Heading 4202 as a backpack." To me, that seems to undervalue the safety features. Moreover, none of the exemplars in 4202 have safety features. But, that is a straw man I need not fight, because 4202 was not in play. Rather, the importer suggested classification in Heading 9506.99.60 as sports equipment. Customs disagreed with that and noted that the airbag backpack is neither "requisite" not "essential" to any sporting activity.
Instead, Customs classified it in Heading 6307 as an other made up article of textile.
The thing about this device is that it apparently could be worn by anyone in an avalanche-prone area, whether or not participating in a sport. For example, I can see this being worn by the folks who groom and patrol ski runs, by park rangers, and by scientists doing field work. That makes me wonder whether the manufacturer might be able to modify the design to make it clearly dedicated to a sporting event. Customs did admit that it includes exterior straps designed to carry skis, snowboards, and ice axes. Is that enough to make it a product of 9506? Maybe. A more interesting question might be whether there is a clever design tweak that would make it clear that this is a "sporting" product? I don't know what that might be, but I hope the engineers at Arc'teryx are working on it.
Tariff engineering: It's value-added classification.