The Chargé in Egypt (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

No. 855

Sir: Complying with the instructions contained in your telegram No. 17, of July 19, 5 p.m., to report briefly by telegram and fully by [Page 571] mail regarding the complaint of the Vacuum Oil Company as to the storage, by foreign importers, of petroleum products in barges in the port of Alexandria, in disregard of the existing regulations, I this morning telegraphed the Department and now have the honor to enclose copies of the correspondence in this matter which I believe reveal all the facts and show the steps taken to date.

It will be noted that the Legation first brought the matter to the attention of the Foreign Office in a note dated June 8th, sent on the eve of the departure of the Minister. The matter having been recalled to my attention by the Vacuum Oil representative in Cairo I took occasion to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs in person and to request some action by the Ministry of the Interior on the unanswered note of the Vacuum Oil Company of May 12th, as well as a reply to the Legation’s note of June 8th.

Having been informed by the Vacuum Oil Company of a new instance occurring of a barge being used to store oil in the harbor I wrote the note of July 10th in which I referred to the interview I had had with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on June 29th.

Upon receipt of the Department’s telegram this morning I ascertained from the Vacuum Oil representative that nothing had yet been heard about the matter. I am therefore arranging immediately for another interview, this time with the Prime Minister himself, Adly Pasha Yaghen. I shall also take occasion to discuss the matter informally with the Residency in view of the joining in the original complaint, (see letter of May 12th), of the British Company, the Asiatic Petroleum Company (Egypt) Ltd. As the mail closes today I shall have to postpone to a later despatch a report on the result of the interviews proposed.

I have [etc.]

Stewart Johnson
[Enclosure 1]

The Vacuum Oil Company, A. I. Mantacheff & Company, and the Asiatic Petroleum Company (Egypt) Ltd. to the Egyptian Under Secretary of State, Ministry of the Interior

Excellency: A considerable time ago, we protested to the Harbour authorities in Alexandria against small importers of petroleum being allowed to store petroleum permanently in boats in the harbour and to discharge their cargo into tankwagons, tankcarts or other receptacles on the quay.

We pointed out that, whereas we spent large amounts of money in providing proper storage tanks on shore and taking every possible precaution against accidents, these small importers, who had little or [Page 572] no experience in petroleum, were permitted to store and handle petroleum in a way that constituted a grave danger.

We are now writing to Your Excellency as one of the boats so used for storing petroleum recently met with an accident in Alexandria harbour and it was purely a matter of good fortune that the harbour was not flooded with large quantities of inflammable kerosene which might have ignited and caused enormous loss by fire to shipping in the harbour and properties in the vicinity.

This method of storage has during recent years been permitted to three different importers (two of which have since ceased to conduct their business in that way). There is, however, another merchant in Alexandria advertising the fact that he proposes to import a cargo of kerosene in the very near future and store it in the same most dangerous way.

In drawing Your Excellency’s attention to this, we beg to point out, first, the unfairness caused to serious companies such as our own who spend large sums of money in endeavoring to secure perfect safety to the general public, while other companies are permitted to ignore entirely public security, and, secondly, we must say that we feel compelled, if this mode of handling petroleum is permitted to continue, to state that we are seriously perturbed at the grave danger of damage to our own property in Alexandria, and we must add that if damage occurs to any of our property from this cause, we shall feel compelled to hold the Government responsible.

We have [etc.]

For Vacuum Oil Company
For A. I. Mantacheff & Company
For The Asiatic Petroleum Company (Egypt) Ltd.
[Enclosure 2]

The American Minister (Howell) to the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Saroit)

No. 356

Excellency: I have the honor to call Your Excellency’s attention to a copy of a letter addressed to His Excellency the Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of the Interior, under date of May 12, 1926, and signed by representatives of the Vacuum Oil Company, Mantacheff Company and the Asiatic Petroleum Company (Egypt) Ltd., which is self explanatory.

I am informed by the representative of the Vacuum Oil Company, an American corporation, that up to date no reply has been received to the communication under reference.

After a very complete recitation of the facts in respect to the matter contained in the enclosed letter, I have been led to the conclusion that [Page 573] the objections entertained by the various Oil Companies against these floating barges of petroleum are well taken. It would appear that these small importers of this product are carrying on not only in an illegal manner but in a manner prejudicial, at the same time, to the safety of these various Companies that are properly installed for the transaction of their business in this product.

It is recited, among the complaints made in this matter, that but recently a small importer has brought in petroleum supplies and is storing them in a small barge in the harbor itself not far distant from the installation of the Vacuum Oil Company.

It is confidently believed that to call Your Excellency’s attention to this matter will be sufficient to cause such an investigation to be made as will give satisfaction to these companies in question.

Please accept [etc.]

J. Morton Howell
[Enclosure 3]

The American Chargé (Johnson) to the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Saroit)

No. 361

Excellency: I have the honor to recall to Your Excellency’s attention the Legation’s Note No. 356, of June 8th, regarding a complaint made by the Vacuum Oil Company, an American corporation, with reference to the illegal storage of oil by small importers of petroleum in Alexandria harbor, to the detriment of the Vacuum Oil Company and to the danger of the community.

It will be recalled that the matter was covered in a letter, dated May 12, 1926, to the Ministry of the Interior from both the Vacuum Oil Company, The Asiatic Petroleum Company (a British corporation) and A. I. Mantacheff & Company, to which no reply has yet been received.

Your Excellency will also recall that, on Tuesday, June 29th, I had the honor of referring to the matter in the course of my interview with you.

I am now, however, in receipt of another letter from the Vacuum Oil Company, dated the 7th instant,21 stating that they feel it necessary to advise me further that one of the small importers of petroleum, previously referred to, is making arrangements to bring still another barge of about 800 tons capacity to Alexandria, to serve as a floating storage tank, thus still further aggravating the prejudicial and dangerous situation against which they are protesting.

In expressing the hope that Your Excellency may be able to give to the complaint of these important foreign interests the attention it undoubtedly deserves, I avail myself [etc.]

Stewart Johnson
  1. Not printed.