The Secretary of State to Diplomatic Officers

No. 178

Gentlemen: Referring to the Department’s Confidential Circular Instruction dated January 11, 1923, entitled “Status in Foreign Countries of Vessels and Representatives of the United States Shipping Board”, the Department informs you that a communication2d has been received from the Chairman of the United States Shipping Board stating that it has come to his attention that some foreign governments apparently have doubt concerning the status of merchant vessels belonging to the United States of America represented by the United States Shipping Board, particularly with respect to questions of immunity from arrest and other special advantages generally accorded to public vessels of a foreign nation. In order that the status of such vessels may be clearly understood, it is desired that you shall address a communication to the Foreign Office concerning these vessels in the following sense:

The United States will not claim that ships operated by or on behalf of the United States Shipping Board, when engaged in commercial pursuits, are entitled to immunity from arrest or to other special advantages which are generally accorded to public vessels of a foreign nation. Such ships when so operated will be permitted to be subject to the laws of foreign countries which apply under otherwise like conditions to privately owned merchant ships foreign to such countries.

The United States will, however, when occasion arises, continue to ask that foreign courts and tribunals and other government departments and agencies recognize the application of Section 7 of the Suits in Admiralty Act, approved March 9, 1920 (41 Stat. at L. 525), which provides as follows:

[Here follows the text of section 7 printed in consular instructions no. 722, May 21, 1920, ante, page 263.]

I am [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. Dated Feb. 20, 1923; not printed.