File No. 300.115/4414

The Consul General at London (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 606]

Sir: In extension of my cabled reports regarding the recent detention of the American ships Neches at London and Seaconnet at North Shields, under the order in council of March 11, 1915, I have the honor to report as follows:

The Neches was confronted with bills for discharging seized cargo, pilotage, dock dues, and a suit for civil damages for the destruction of a lighter in consequence of a collision in port while the ship was under the control of an Admiralty pilot. I protested against the payment of any charges whatsoever, and after considerable controversy, won on every point except that of the damage suit. The ship was obliged to give bond or submit to considerable further delay while the question was being debated, and it was decided, therefore, to give the bond. Inasmuch as the government has admitted liability for pilotage and the like, showing that the ship was no longer under the captain’s control, it would seem as though the damage suit should result in the ship’s favor.1

The Seaconnet was first refused clearance papers, after discharging cargo, until pilotage and dock dues were paid. In this case, also, I protested, and although the authorities at first declined to meet these bills, eventually they decided to do so.

The decisions in both cases clear up the situation considerably, as up to the present time the British Government, not content with detaining ships, had been insisting that they pay the ordinary charges assessed against ships arriving in the usual course of business. While, as I have before intimated, it will probably be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to induce the British Government to radically alter its present commercial policy, I am disposed to believe that by insisting firmly upon a reasonable carrying out of the orders in council in concrete cases, it will be possible, gradually, to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner
  1. In his despatch No. 784, October 19, 1915 (File No. 300.115/5802), the Consul General reported that the suit was settled out of court through payment by the insurance companies of the damages claimed.