No. 560.
Sir L. S. Sackville West to Mr. Bayard.

Sir: In conformity with instructions which I have received from the Marquis of Salisbury, I have the honor to inclose to you herewith copy of a dispatch which his lordship has addressed to Her Majesty’s representatives on the subject of a concession granted by the Porte for the erection or maintenance of thirty lights in the Red Sea, on the southeastern coast of Arabia and in the Persian Gulf. Copy of this document is likewise inclosed, together with copy of a note from the Turkish ambassador in London and a copy of a memorandum prepared by the board of trade.

In transmitting this correspondence to you Iain at the same time requested to invite the United States Government to inform Her Majesty’s Government whether the Turkish proposals should, in their opinion, be agreed to, and, if not, as to what lights their trade requires, and what dues they are prepared to pay for them.

I have, &c.,

L. S. Sackyille West.
[Page 791]

Circular instructions relative to Bed Sea lights.

In the year 1881 the Porte granted to Messrs. Collas and Michel a concession for the erection and maintenance of thirty lights in the Red Sea, on the southeastern coast of Arabia and in the Persian Gulf.

Copy of this document is inclosed for your information. Her Majesty’s Government have objected to the terms of the concession, and in August last a meeting to discuss it took place at this office between Sir James Fergusson, Mr. Henry G. Cal-craft, Mr. Kennedy, and Rear-Admiral Sir G. Nares, on the part of Her Majesty’s Government, and Morel Bey and M. Collas, as representing the Porte and the concessionaires; but the Porte, in the note from Rustem Pasha of the 15th of that month, while agreeing to certain modifications, declined to admit all the objections of Her Majesty’s Government.

I inclose copy of his excellency’s note, together with copy of a memorandum prepared by the board of trade, which enters fully into the details of the scheme, and the objections which Her Majesty’s Government consider exist to it.

It will be seen from this memorandum that, as regards the portion of the concession which relates to the lighting of the Red Sea, in the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, eight out of the twelve proposed fairway lights are not required for the protection of ships passing through that sea, and that six of them would not, in ordinary circumstances, even be sighted; that two more are not absolutely necessary for the safety of shipping carefully navigated; and that the establishment of these two can well be deferred for the present. Also that the dues authorized under the concession are inordinately high.

It is shown that by omitting the erection of the lights which are considered unnecessary, it would be possible to provide for the erection of all the lights in the neighborhood which are needed, at a smaller expense to the shipping trade than is proposed under the concession.

The dues leviable under the concession for the twelve Red Sea fairway lights alone, would, as shown in the memorandum, amount to about £38 for each voyage on a vessel of 3,200 net tonnage, in addition to the charges for supporting the Egyptian lights already established, and which amount to about £38 for a vessel of the same tonnage. The dues, moreover, for the lights authorized by the concession, if once agreed to by the maritime powers, are to be continued for forty years. No provision is made for their revision in the event of trade increasing, or in that of the cost of erection being previously paid off.

On the other hand, the cost of maintaining the existing Red Sea lights, establishing the additional ones that are absolutely necessary within the Egyptian, Turkish, and Guardafui districts, and providing a sinking fund for the repayment of the cost of their erection, can, it is expected, be met as soon as a reduction can be made in the Egyptian light-house dues, by a tariff of about the amount now levied for the Egyptian Red Sea lights alone.

It will be seen from Rustem Pasha’s note referred to, that, notwithstanding the objections raised by Her Majesty’s Government to the concession, the Porte holds in the main to its terms, and says that the separation of the Abu Ail and Mocha shoal lights from the general concession is impossible.

It is indeed stated that the scheme is open to modification, but, looking to the above-mentioned expression of opinion and to the fact that a high fixed tariff is proposed, Her Majesty’s Government conclude that the modification can only refer to the number of lights being slightly reduced or the sites somewhat altered.

But, besides the objections held by Her Majesty’s Government to the proposed fairway lights and the scale of dues, they consider that the following points are of great importance and should be firmly maintained in dealing with the concession.

That the Red Sea fair-way lights erected for the benefit of and supported by dues levied on the passing foreign trade should be in no way coupled financially with any other lights or with Government funds applicable to other purposes.
That whatever country provides lights should levy dues only in strict proportion to the actual cost of the service, and that the expenses should be kept as low as possible with due regard to efficiency.
That provision should be made for the periodical revision of the tariff, and that yearly accounts should be published for the information of the countries whose trade is taxed, as is already done by Egypt in connection with the lights in the northern part of the Red Sea, and by Great Britain in connection with lights in the Indian Ocean and on the south coast of Ceylon.

The accompanying extract of a letter from the board of trade, dated the 22d February, 1886, points out the undesirability of acknowledging or admitting the fresh establishment in practice of a right on the part of any power to benefit financially [Page 792] through taxes levied on a foreign passing trade in connection with lights on its coast or on off-lying dangers, a line of policy for the abolition of which the several maritime powers have made great effort, and for the abandonment of which, when prescribed by long usage, a large sum was paid by them to Denmark in 1857, when the sound duties were done away with.

At the present time, although many countries exercise their undoubted right to levy local light dues on ships entering their ports, no country, except Turkey (who taxes the Black Sea trade on passing the Dardanelles), so far as Her Majesty’s Government are aware, in any way levies light dues on the foreign trade passing their general coast lights, unless it enters one of their ports, much less does any other foreign government benefit financially through levying such dues.

If the Collas concession were agreed to, a further precedent would be created in opposition to the principle on which action was taken regarding the sound duties, for the Turkish treasury, which would receive 10 per cent, of the dues levied, would, by thus taxing a foreign passing trade, immediately benefit to the extent of some £7,000 a year over and above the cost of the light-house service.

With reference to the statements made in Rustem Pasha’s letter of August 15, I have to observe that the proposed Turkish Red Sea-light dues and the Egyptian Red Sea light dues are in no way comparable, the accounts of the latter being published for general information, and the tariff being subject to revision. The statement that Turkey will light an area of 325 miles with twenty-three lights for the same amount of dues as is now charged by Egypt for lighting 100 miles by means of seven lights is incorrect, for the eleven Turkish coast and harbor lights included in the above number have special dues levied for them.

In consideration of these circumstances, and as the concurrence of the maritime powers in the tariff is necessary before the concession can come into force, Her Majesty’s Government propose to inform the Porte that they can not agree that the trade of this country which passes through the Red Sea without touching at a Turkish port should be taxed except to such an extent as may be found necessary to pay the actual cost of erecting and maintaining such lights as are absolutely necessary for that trade. But before doing so they would be glad to know the views of other powers interested in the matter.

I have, therefore, to request you to invite the Government to which you are accredited to inform Her Majesty’s Government as to whether the Turkish proposals should, in their opinion, be agreed to, and, if not, as to what lights their trade requires, and what dues they are prepared to pay for them; and you will communicate to the foreign minister a copy of this dispatch, and of its inclosures, for his excellency’s information.

I am, with great truth, etc.,

——— ———
(For the Marquis of Salisbury.)