War Trade Board Files: Japanese Tonnage Negotiations, Vol. II

The Representative of the British Ministry of Shipping ( Fisher ) to the Chairman of the War Trade Board ( McCormick )

No. S–173

Dear Mr. McCormick : You will remember that on May 11 last I wrote to you officially in the sense that London desired to be free to charter Japanese vessels now that your negotiations with Japan are completed.

You replied on May 28th that you felt it better that the United States Government should continue to be the sole bidders for Japanese ships and this reply was communicated to London. It now appears that Japanese vessels have been offered for liner business to British ports and London feels that there is nothing to be gained by refusing permission to British firms to charter such vessels.

I spoke with Mr. Munson about this and he advised I should write officially to Mr. Hurley acquainting him with London’s views.

I take pleasure in enclosing a copy of my letter to Mr. Hurley for your information.

At our various conversations on this subject Mr. Munson gave me to understand that it was under consideration whether some of the Japanese vessels obtained by the United States Government as a result of their concessions to Japan should not be allocated to the other Associated Governments in the same manner that Great Britain allocates to France and Italy a share of such Norwegian vessels as she is able to control by reason of the special concessions made to Norway in the matter of British coal.

Nothing appears to have come of this proposal and it would seem that all the Japanese vessels secured by the United States Government are operating under their own exclusive control.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Fisher
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The Representative of the British Ministry of Shipping ( Fisher ) to the Chairman of the Shipping Board ( Hurley )

No. S–173

Dear Sir: You will recollect that in the summer of 1917 the United States Government through the State Department addressed a request to the British Government that pending the completion of certain negotiations between the United States and Japan the British Ministry of Shipping should refrain from any attempt to charter Japanese vessels for British service.

In May 1918 when the negotiations between the United States and Japan had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion the British Ministry of Shipping informed me that they presumed there was no longer any reason why they should abstain from chartering Japanese ships should the opportunity offer.

As it was my understanding that the negotiations were being conducted by the United States War Trade Board I communicated this information to the chairman of that board and also to Mr. Munson. Mr. McCormick replied that he felt the United States was in a better position to charter Japanese ships on advantageous terms than any of the other Allies and that he felt competitive bidding would be disadvantageous.

In accordance with Mr. McCormick’s request I conveyed his views to London and have now received a reply to the effect that in present circumstances the Ministry of Shipping are unable to see what advantage is gained by continuing to refrain from chartering such ships as may be offered for employment by their owners.

It appears that Japanese vessels are entirely free to engage in the Pacific and other Eastern trades and my Government feel that to prevent British firms from taking such vessels on charter is detrimental to British interests whilst it in no way assists to procure more Japanese ships for general Allied service.

It would seem that the number of Japanese vessels engaged in trade in the Pacific and Far East is in excess of the minimum necessary to maintain these trades and the Controller feels that if it is possible to charter such vessels to take the place of British ships withdrawn for the carriage of United States troops or other war services, the opportunity should not be missed. I am accordingly directed to advise you that the Ministry of Shipping feel obliged to hold themselves free to charter such Japanese ships as may be available.

Yours very truly,

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