File No. 763.72/9758

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State


3738. From Stevens for the President:

No. 138a. The second meeting of the Allied Maritime Transport Council in Paris has just closed. The recommendations of the Council are of such importance that I deem it my duty to report them directly to you.

At its first meeting held in London early in March, the Council created a permanent organization to gather facts relating to the tonnage resources of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy, and to the demands upon such tonnage for all requirements of each of these countries, including military and naval requirements, and general imports.

The organization so created presented the results of its work for the consideration of the Council at the meeting just ended. Among the data submitted were the estimates of military and naval demands and also the estimated quantities of specific commodities to be imported in 1918 by the three European Governments and the total number of tons of estimated imports to be brought into the United States in that year without, however, any statement in the case of the United States of the quantities of the specific commodities. Upon the information so submitted, the Council found that the total estimated essential imports for the year 1919 [1918] exceeded the carrying capacity of the tonnage available for that service by 8,500,000 tons, or stated in terms of shipping tonnage that there would be a deficit of 1,890,000 dead weight tons of shipping.

Since the statement presented to the Council was made up, the German offensive has crippled the use of the French coal mines in the northern district, thus necessitating large additional importations of coal by France and thereby putting an additional strain upon tonnage. [Page 513] The result will be to increase substantially the above estimated deficit.

In estimating the total tonnage available for all Allied uses in 1918, allowance was made for gains from new construction in all the countries and for losses from submarine warfare and marine risk. There was also included, as available, the Dutch requisitioned ships and all other neutral shipping controlled by the Allies. Consequently the deficit shown can be met only by reducing the demands on tonnage.

The problem is to find means by which the total demands upon tonnage may be so reduced as to come within the carrying capacity of the total available tonnage.

The Council considered and adopted the following statement of the Allied tonnage resources and of the demands thereon:

General Statement on the Import and Tonnage Position for 1918

In order to judge the general situation from the point of view of tonnage in the service of the Allies, and of imports which Great Britain, France, and Italy need to bring in during the year 1918, the permanent staff of the Allied Maritime Transport Council have considered together:

The programme of imports of Great Britain, France, and Italy, for the year 1918;
The average tonnage which these three nations estimate that they will have at their disposal during the same period for import work;
The amount of imports which it is estimated can be brought into these three countries by neutral vessels not under their control, by contributions from services primarily used for purposes other than imports, by return and triangular voyages, etc.

Calculations based upon these different elements show the following results in round figures: programme of imports for 1918 (in tons of 2,240 pounds) excluding oil carried in tankers, Great Britain 30,200,000, France 33,300,000, Italy 16,500,000, total 80,000,000. Total dead weight tonnage required (excluding tankers) 16,340,000. Estimated dead weight tonnage available directly or indirectly for imports of Allies (see b and c above excluding tankers) 14,450,000. Deficit in dead weight tonnage (excluding tankers) 1,890,000. It is estimated that this deficit of 1,890,000 dead weight tonnage of shipping, unless made up, will cause a deficit of roughly 8,500,000 tons in the imports contemplated by the programmes of the Allies for 1918 as stated above.

In explanation of the foregoing summarized statement the following is submitted.

1. Imports. Great Britain, France, and Italy have furnished statements showing their programmes of imports for the year 1918. In the case of cereals, the Wheat Executive has subjected the requirements [Page 514] of the [several] Allies to thorough Allied examination and agreement up to the end of the present cereal year, August 31, 1918, but the other programmes, while having been the subject of examination and revision by the respective Governments, have not as yet been adjusted by joint Allied action.

Compared with the imports of 1917, 1916 and 1913, the programmes of imports for 1918, in tons weight, are as follows:

1918 1917 1916 1913
Great Britain 30,200,000 34,417,000 42,326,000 52,793,000
France 33,300,000 32,202,000 36,000,000 43,500,000
Italy 16,500,000 11,109,000 15,500,000 18,000,000

Grouped in broad classes of commodities, the 1918 import requirements of the Allies are made up approximately as follows:

Great Britain France Italy
Food 13,600,000 7,100,000 4,700,000
Munitions 4,400,000 5,400,000 2,000,000
Coal and iron ores 7,300,000 19,200,000 8,600,000
Raw materials, etc 4,900,000 1,600,000 1,200,000
Totals 30,200,000 33,300,000 16,500,000

2. Tonnage, (a) Total tonnage under control of the Allies during the year 1918, making due allowance for losses by submarines and for new building in Great Britain, France, and Italy. The Allies estimate that they will have under their control during the year 1918 the following average dead weight tonnage: British flag 18,000,000, French flag 1,650,000, Italian 1,200,000 (approximate), neutral flag 1,400,000, total 22,250,000 (exclusive of tankers).

(b) Tonnage reserved by the Allies for military or naval use or services other than general import work.

Out of the total of controlled tonnage, the three Allies have at present allocated for naval and military services certain tonnage which for the year 1918 is estimated as follows (dead weight tons):

Great Britain France Italy
Naval services 2,760,000
and 525,000 184,000
Military services 2,205,000
Colonial services unsuitable for import work 2,560,000 95,000 155,000
Total 7,525,000 620,000 339,000
Grand total of reserved services: 8,484,000.

[Page 515]

It is recognized that the military and naval requirements can be determined only upon the advice of the military and naval organizations. Unless and until these requirements are redetermined, the Allied Maritime Transport Council must consider that the tonnage reserved for these purposes is to be maintained regardless of the fluctuations in sinkings, or new building. The result of so treating the military and naval requirements is that losses in tonnage must necessarily fall upon that portion of the tonnage remaining for import work even though a substantial proportion of the import work consists of the conveyance of munitions and other articles exclusively required for military programme.

(c) The American military programme. In the foregoing statement, the tonnage of the United States has not been relied upon for the import needs of Great Britain, France, and Italy, for the reason that advice has been received from the American Government that they estimate that all the tonnage of the United States (including any that she may hereafter acquire or construct) except such portion thereof as she must use for her own indispensable imports and for such provision as she is already under obligation to make for the services of neutrals or the Allies, will be required to convey supplies, stores, construction material, railway equipment, etc., for the number of American troops which is being sent in accordance with the programme adopted by the Supreme War Council and accepted by the United States.

(d) Tonnage available for general imports. The total dead weight tonnage under control of Great Britain, France, and Italy, as shown in paragraph (a) is 22,250,000. The dead weight tonnage allotted to military, naval and other services, as shown in paragraph (b) is 8,484,000. Therefore, the dead weight tonnage under the control of the Allies remaining available for Allied imports during 1918 is 13,766,000. In calculating, however, carrying capacity of the tonnage available for importing work, it is necessary to make allowance on the one hand for tonnage under repair or otherwise out of action and, on the other hand, for importing work done by neutral vessels not under Allied control by vessels not used primarily importing and by vessels on return and triangular voyages, etc. After allowance for these factors, the mean dead weight tonnage available for importing work throughout the year 1918 may be taken at 4,450,000.

The import needs of the Allies having thus been set against the tonnage allocated for the carrying of those imports with a resultant deficit of some 8,500,000 tons in imports, it is now necessary for the council to find the means by which the problem of dealing with this deficit can be solved.

3. Programmes of importation, which exceed by 8,500,000 tons the carrying capacity of the tonnage remaining for importing work.

It is obvious that the problem of providing tonnage for imports of the European Allies can be solved only if all the demands upon tonnage are reconsidered jointly by the proper authorities of the Allies with a view to securing such reduction and readjustment of those demands as will bring them within the carrying capacity of the total tonnage available. This problem which is now before the [Page 516] Council, involves the consideration of the following demands upon tonnage:

Military, naval, and other reserved services of Great Britain, France, and Italy, which it is estimated will require an average tonnage of 8,484,000, dead weight tons.
The programme of transporting supplies, stores, construction material, railway equipment, etc., in connection with the despatch of troops which are being sent in accordance with the military programme adopted by the Supreme War Council and accepted by the United States Government.

[Beginning of section 2.] After deliberation and discussion of the situation upon the bases of foregoing statement of facts, the Council adopted a resolution in which are set forth the immediate steps which the Council believes should be taken in order to enable the Associated Governments to make their plans fit the use of tonnage actually at their disposal. This resolution is as follows:

1. The Allied Maritime Transport Council has considered and adopted the attached statement of the general import and tonnage position.

2. In view of the gravity of the situation as disclosed by this statement, the Council considers it to be their duty to bring the position before their respective Governments with a view to immediate action.

It is clear to the Council that the deficit is so serious that it cannot be met without a reconsideration of the military and naval demands, as well as the requirements of imports, particularly in view of the fact that any further drastic reduction of imports would have important military effects, as a large proportion of them are destined for military uses. The import of coal into France, for instance, so far from being capable of reduction, requires to be substantially increased as an immediate military necessity arising from the recent offensive, and the military necessity for maintaining, if possible increasing, the supply of coal into Italy, is well known.

The Council feel that if the deficit falls (as in the absence of a prearranged plan it must fall) in a relatively haphazard manner and at short notice upon the several services, whether import, naval or military, which demand tonnage, the resulting dislocation and disaster are likely to be made more serious than if satisfactory measures had been taken.

3. In these circumstances the Council considers that the following action is necessary:

(a) That a further drastic revision of the import [programmes] of the several countries should be undertaken, and that the necessary orders to this end should be given to the appropriate nations and Allied bodies which are now entrusted with the duty of arranging reductions and adjustment of programmes.

[Page 517]

Further, that in order that this work may be adequately performed, either Allied executives or Allied committees appointed specifically for the purpose of adjusting Allied programmes of imports should be constituted immediately to deal with such questions as are not dealt with by existing executives.

Further, that it is desirable that there should be an American representative on each of these executives or committees, who would be a full member in the same sense as the representatives of the three European Allies (the American delegate did not vote on this).

(b) That the permanent organization of the Council should examine the possibility of rendering available for import work any vessels now engaged in colonial service and vessels hitherto regarded as unsuitable.

(c) That there should be an examination by the appropriate military authorities of the Allied military supply programmes (including the American programme) with a view to ascertaining in what ways the demands on mercantile tonnage could be diminished.

(d) That there should be a similar examination by the Allied naval authorities of the possibility of reducing the demand by the Allied navies on mercantile tonnage.

The Council then instructed the delegates of the several Governments to report the foregoing statement of facts and the foregoing resolution to the heads of their respective Governments. In accordance with that instruction, I am making this report to you.

I refrained from voting upon the paragraph which expresses the recommendation of the Council that there should be an American representative on each of the Allied executives or committees constituted for the purpose of adjusting Allied programmes of imports, because I was without information as to the policy of my Government on this subject. My personal view is that representation of the United States on these executives or committees is necessary and desirable. In a later cablegram I will transmit full information concerning such executives as now exist, and those that are planned, with the reasons why it would be to the advantage of the United States to be represented thereon.1

  1. Post, p. 566.