File No. 763.72112/1071

The Ambassador in Germany (Gerard) to the Secretary of State


2141. Consul General Lay informs me that since March 1 and until now Holland-America Steamship Company at Rotterdam, advised by Netherlands Oversea Trust Committee, has accepted German and Austrian goods for shipment to United States when accompanied by a shipper’s or owner’s declaration, signatures being merely authenticated by consul in compliance with your instructions cabled Consul General Lay February 16.1 The Holland-America Line now require a declaration of the shipper as to the transfer of title to American owners or that the goods have been paid for before March 1, and besides that the American consuls in Germany certifying themselves that they are convinced of the truth of declarant’s statements. Commercial bodies and shippers express acute dissatisfaction that consuls themselves cannot confirm shipper’s statements as required by Holland-America Line. Consuls explain that in a few rare cases banker’s declinations [declarations] are offered as evidence that goods were paid for before March 1, which might be regarded as conclusive; but in most cases all shippers can procure as proof of American ownership or that title has passed are orders from American firms with letters of credit or receipted invoices of manufacturers all dated before March 1. Can Department modify its instructions or offer other suggestions to relieve situation?

  1. The instructions referred to were given in a telegram to the Consul General at Berlin, February 15, 1915, as follows: “Consuls cannot issue certificate of American ownership [of merchandise purchased for shipment] to United States, but may if requested authenticate and attach to invoices banker’s declaration or such other evidence of American ownership as shipper or owner may produce” (File No. 611.00176/3).