Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 5, 1905
Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.
Brussels, November 30, 1905.
Sir: Referring to my No. 33, I have now the honor to inclose a full report of the proceedings of the International Martime Conference, held in Brussels in the month of October last.a
* * * * * * *
I also inclose a copy and translation of a note from the Belgian minister for foreign affairs, together with one authenticated and official copy of the protocol and conventions, and three copeis of the same.
* * * * * * *
I have, etc.,
The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Wilson.
Mr. Minister: As your excellency is aware, the delegates of the States represented at the second session of the International Conference of Maritime Law signed, on October 20, 1905, a protocol which provides for the submission of the two drafts of conventions for the unification of certain rules in matter of maritime collision and assistance to their respective governments.
I inclose to your excellency five copies of the protocol, one of which is authenticated and official.
As is stated in the procés-verbal, it is understood that if improvements or changes in the conventions should be found necessary, the conference may meet a third time for that purpose, upon the invitation of the Belgian Government, after the period of one year.
The Government of the King, however, believes that a new conference will not be necessary and trusts that the two convention drafts, which have been the subject of long and serious deliberation, may receive in the near future the legislative sanction of the various governments represented at the conference.
The Belgian Government will be pleased to be informed, as soon as possible, of the action taken by the governments represented at the conference relative to the conventions adopted at Brussels.
Permit me, Mr. Minister, to have recourse to your kindness in having the contents of this communication brought to the knowledge of the American Government.
Convention for unifying certain rules to be applied as to collisions at sea.
The compensation for damages caused by collision between seagoing vessels or between seagoing vessels and vessels of interior navigation, in whatever waters the collision may have occurred, is submitted to the following provisions:
If the collision has occurred without fault, or by a “vis major,” or if the cause is inscrutable, the loss falls on the interests which have suffered them.
This provision applies in each case where one of the vessels or both were at anchor at the time of the accident.
If the collision has been caused by the fault of one vessel, the vessel which committed the fault is bound to make good the damage.[Page 75]
If the collision was caused by mutual fault, the liability of each ship shall be proportionate to the gravity of her fault.
The damages caused to either of the vessels, to their cargo, or to the clothes or other goods of the crews or of the passengers or other persons on board, are to be divided between the vessels in the said proportion without joint liability.
The liability established by the preceding articles subsists in case of collision occurring by the fault of a pilot, even where the employment of such pilot is compulsory.
The action for indemnity for damages suffered by collision is not subject either to a protest or to any other special formality.
The action is barred by prescription two years after the event.
The law of the country where the court sits in deciding the case, fixes the causes of suspension and interruption of the prescription.
The fact that the defendant vessel could not have been attached in the territory of the State where the plaintiff is domiciled, or where he has his principal establishment, will be admitted as a ground for suspension of the prescription.
After a collision the captain of each colliding vessel is, so far as he can do so without causing serious danger to his vessel, crew or passengers, obliged to afford assistance to the other vessel, to her crew or passengers.
The captain is also obliged so far as possible, to give the name and port of his vessel and the name and place he comes from and is bound to.
The owner of the ship is not liable for breach of this regulation. The breach of this regulation does not entail a presumption of fault to the extent of pecuniary liability for the collision.
The high contracting parties whose laws do not already punish the above-mentioned offense, bind themselves to take or to propose to their respective legislative bodies the necessary measures for the punishment of this offense.
The high contracting parties will communicate the laws and regulations in execution of the preceding provisions, already in force or which will be in force in their States, as soon as possible to each other.
Pending further agreement as to the limitation of shipowners’ liability, it is understood that the present provisions do not alter in any way the nature and the extent of that liability as established in each country, nor the liability resulting from a transportation or other contract.
The present convention does not apply to men-of-war nor to governmental vessels devoted exclusively to public service.
The provisions of the present convention shall apply to all interested parties when all the vessels belong to signatory states, and in all other cases fixed by national laws.
The delegates of the signatory states will assemble at Brussels three years after the present convention has become effective with the view of making needed changes and of enlarging if possible its sphere of operation.[Page 76]
The states which have not signed the present convention are accorded the right to adhere to the same on request.
Their desire to adhere shall be conveyed by diplomatic channels to the Belgian Government, and by the latter to each of the other governments. It shall come into force one month after the notification has been made by the Belgian Government.
The present convention shall be ratified and the ratifications shall be deposited at Brussels as soon as possible. At the expiration of two years from the date of signing the convention the Belgian Government will communicate with the governments that have declared their intention to ratify, so as to arrive at a decision whether the convention shall be rendered effective or not.
The ratifications will be deposited immediately, and the convention will take full effect one month after such deposit.
The protocol will remain open one year in favor of those States represented at the Brussels conference. After this date they can only adhere to the convention in accordance with article 14.
In case any of the signatory states shall secede from the present convention the secession shall take effect one year from the day on which the notification is made to the Belgian Government, and the convention shall remain in force between the other signatory states.
In witness whereof the plenipotentiaries of the respective states have signed and sealed the present convention.
International convention for the unification of rules in the matter of maritime assistance and salvage.
The assistance and the salvage of seagoing vessels, or their cargo, and also the services rendered between seagoing vessels and vessels of interior navigation, are subject to the following provisions without any distinction as to the kind of service and without regard to the waters where the service may have been rendered.
All services of assistance or of salvage having had a useful result give the right to an equitable remuneration.
Nothing is due if the services rendered are without useful result.
Persons who have taken part in the work of rendering assistance against the express and reasonable prohibition of the assisted vessel, or persons who have fraudulently hidden salved goods, are barred from all right to remuneration.
A tug has the right to remuneration for assistance or salvage rendered to the ship towed by her, or to its cargo, only when exceptional services which can not be considered as part of the contract of towage have been rendered.
Remuneration is due even when the assistance or salvage has been rendered between vessels belonging to the same owner.
The amount of the remuneration is fixed by agreement between the parties, and in case there is no agreement, by the judge.[Page 77]
Where an agreement for salvage or assistance has been made at the moment and under the influence of danger, it may, at the request of either party, be modified by the judge, if the latter considers the agreed conditions not equitable.
The remuneration is fixed by the judge according to the circumstances of the case, and taking principally into consideration the following facts.
- First, the success obtained, the efforts and merits of those who have rendered assistance, the danger incurred by the assisted vessel, by her cargo, by the salvors, and by the assisting vessel; also the expenses and damages incurred by the latter, taking into account finally her particular occupation.
- Secondly, the value of the salved goods and of the assisting vessel.
The action for payment of remuneration is barred two years from the time the assistance or salvage were furnished.
The law of the court under whose jurisdiction the case falls determines the causes of suspension and interruption of prescription.
The fact that the assisted or salved vessel could not have been attached in the territorial waters of the State in which the plaintiff is domiciled or has his principal establishment will be admitted as cause for the suspension of the prescription.
So far as he can do so without serious danger to his ship, his crew, or his passengers, every captain is bound to give assistance to any person, even an enemy, whom he finds at sea in peril or who requests help.
The owner of a vessel is not responsible for infringement of the above provision.
The high contracting parties whose laws provide no penalty for the infringement of the preceding article bind themselves to take or to propose to their respective legislative bodies the necessary measures providing a penalty for the infringement of the preceding article.
The high contracting parties will communicate as soon as possible to each other the laws and regulations already in force, or which will be in force, in their territories for carrying out the provisions of the preceding article.
The present convention does not invalidate the prescription of municipal legislation or international treaties relative to the assistance and salvage services organized by the public authorities or under their control.
The provisions referring to remuneration do not apply in the case of the rescue of persons, but this is affirmed without prejudice to the existing municipal provisions.
The present convention does not apply to men-of-war nor to government vessels exclusively devoted to a public service.
The provisions of the present convention will apply to all parties interested where either the assisting or salving vessel or the assisted or salved vessel belong to one of the contracting states, and also in all other cases provided for by municipal law.
Except as provided for by national laws Article 10 will apply only to vessels belonging to the contracting states.
The delegates of the contracting states will assemble at Brussels after the present convention is put in force, with the view of making salutary changes and of extending, if possible, its sphere of operation.[Page 78]
The states which have not signed the present convention are admitted to adhere to the same on their request. This adhesion will be conveyed by diplomatic channels to the Belgian Government and by the latter to each of the other governments; it will be in force one month after the notification has been made by the Belgian Government.
The present convention shall be ratified and the ratifications shall be deposited at Brussels as soon as possible. At the expiration of two years from the date of signing the convention the Belgian government will communicate with the governments which have declared their intention of ratifying the same, for the purpose of deciding whether it shall be put in force.
The ratifications will thereafter be deposited immediately and the convention will become effective one month after such deposit.
The protocol will remain open one year for the states represented at the Brussels conference. Thereafter they may adhere to the convention, in accordance with the terms of Article 14.
In case any of the contracting parties secede from the present convention, such secession shall take effect one year from the day on which the notification is made to the Belgian Government and the convention shall remain in force between the other contracting governments.
In witness whereof the plenipotentiaries of the respective states have signed and sealed the present convention.
- Not printed.↩