Mr. Wharton to Mr. Egan.

No. 98.]

Sir: Inclosed herewith is a copy of a letter of the 1st instant from Mr. James A. Scrymser, president of the Central and South American Telegraph Company, in which the desire is expressed that such special privileges as may be permissible may be granted in the ports of Chile to that company’s steamer Relay, which is used for the purpose of repairing cables.

The company in behalf of which Mr. Scrymser writes maintains and operates a line of submarine cables from Galveston, Tex., to Coatzacoalcos, on the Gulf of Mexico, thence across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, southward along the Pacific coast to Valparaiso, Chile. The extreme [Page 121] urgency required in making repairs renders it necessary that the steamer engaged in that service should, so far as possible, be exempt from entry and clearance, the certification of papers, and other formalities which in the case of such a vessel are productive of inconvenience and delay and are not likely to serve any useful purpose. For this reason it is believed to be the rule to treat cable repair ships in an exceptional manner.

You are instructed to bring the subject to the attention of the Government of Chile, and to ask that it may receive all proper consideration and attention.

I am, etc.,

William F. Wharton,
Acting Secretary.

Note.—A similar instruction was sent to the legations of the United States in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Salvador.

[Inclosure in No. 98.]

Mr. Scrymser to Mr. Blaine.

Dear Sir: I have the honor to inform you that this company maintains and operates a line of submarine cables from Galveston, Tex., to Coazacoalcos, in the Gulf of Mexico, thence across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, southward along the Pacific coast to Valparaiso, Chile, and for that purpose employs on the Pacific coast its repair steamer Relay. This steamer is stationed at Callao, Peru, and is at all times manned and equipped for immediate use.

In Europe and the East cable repair ships are treated everywhere in an exceptional manner. In fact, they have all the privileges of war vessels, and are exempted from the formalities observed at Central and South American custom-houses in the matter of clearances, ship’s papers, etc. The extreme urgency of the operations of cable ships is my excuse for asking that you will at your earliest convenience request the Governments of Mexico, Salvador, Nicaragua, United States of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile to extend to this company’s steamer Relay special privileges to the end that there shall be no delay whatever in observing the formalities in clearing and entering the ports of the countries named. I ask this because in many cases our cables are landed on the coast a few miles beyond the port in order to avoid the anchorage ground. It frequently happens that, in repairing a cable, tests have to be made at the landing places, and under existing custom-house regulations tedious formalities have to be observed before our engineer can land and make tests, which could be quickly accomplished were it not for the inconvenient rules of these foreign ports.

Telegraphic communication being so essential to the commercial life of nations, any delay in its establishment caused by custom-house rules is sensibly felt, and frequently prolong interruptions through the repair steamer not being able to take advantage of a few hours of fine weather, causing much loss to the public and comparatively little gain to the customs department. As a rule custom-houses in these foreign ports close at hours which occasion much inconvenience and delay in the repair of cables. This I am hopeful can be avoided if the honorable Secretary of State will ask the governments named to issue special orders to their customs authorities exempting this company’s steamer Relay from the existing rules of the ports so that she shall at all times be free to enter and depart.

I also ask that the governments interested be requested to issue a special license to the steamer Relay according to her such special privileges.

I have, etc.,

James A. Scrymser,