The Minister in Egypt ( Howell ) to the Secretary of State

No. 898

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s Despatch No. 886, of September 30, 1926, dealing with the matter of the Vacuum Oil Company, wherein, it will be noted from previous correspondence which had been forwarded to the Department by the Legation, that a protest had been registered by this company with the Egyptian Government against small importers of petroleum being allowed to store petroleum permanently in boats in the harbour, at Alexandria, and to discharge their cargo into tankwagons, tankcarts or other receptacles on the quay.

Apropos of this subject, and for the Department’s further information, I have the honor to herewith transmit a copy of a communication from the Vacuum Oil Company, dated October 7, 1926, in further protest against this alleged illegal procedure in the storage and handling of petroleum in Alexandria harbour, a copy of my reply to the Vacuum Oil Company, and a copy of my communication to the Foreign Office, transmitting this letter of protest in question. I am also enclosing herewith a copy of a further communication from the Vacuum Oil Company, together with its enclosure—the Egyptian Government’s “Handbook of Regulations Governing Storage, Transport and Handling at Harbours of Petroleum”—in order that the Department may fully acquaint itself with the regulation governing the handling and storage of this product.24

The Legation respectfully requests to be instructed as to further procedure in the matter under reference.

I have [etc.]

J. Morton Howell

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

Excellency: Adverting for the moment to the correspondence which has taken place between the Royal Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and this Legation relative to the question of illegal storage of petroleum products in Alexandria Harbour, I have the honor to herewith enclose, at the request of the Vacuum Oil Company (an American corporation), a “Further Protest Against Floating Storage of Kerosene and Benzine in Alexandria Harbour.”

In transmitting this protest I profit by the occasion [etc.]

J. Morton Howell
[Page 577]

Memorandum by the Vacuum Oil Company

Further Protest Against Floating Storage of Kerosene and Benzine in Alexandria Harbor

We have to call attention once more to our Protest of May 12th 192625 against the dangerous and discriminatory practice of oil storage in barges at Alexandria; also to our protest of September 28th 192626 against the menace to our installation there caused by the storage of benzine under highly irregular conditions in the Customs zone.

Since these various protests were made there has occurred a second most serious incident in the harbour which demonstrates conclusively our insistent claim that the toleration of floating storage makes possible and even extremely probable a disaster to the port and to our installation.

The first instance, as is quite well known, was that of the narrow escape from destruction of the Lisette last winter. The second is the breaking out on October 2nd of a fire on board the tanker Jules Henry while she was moored near the Petroleum Company of Egypt’s fleet of floating reservoirs.

There can be no question of doubt, as we have insisted from the first, that the presence of floating storage is a distinct menace to the harbour and to our installation close by. On both these occasions all the elements necessary for a catastrophe existed, and such a catastrophe has been averted by nothing more dependable than the greatest of good luck.

To make a very bad situation infinitely worse the Petroleum Company of Egypt, in addition to securing a permit to store benzine under dangerous conditions in the Customs zone on shore, have been allowed to station alongside their floating reservoirs lighters filled with benzine. These were in close proximity to the Jules Henry while the fire was going on.

For the protection of our own property at Alexandria as well as in the interest of ordinary public security, we are compelled to protest most vigorously against the continued toleration of floating storage in the harbour; both because of its dangerous nature and because it exempts the users from the observance of the Egyptian Government’s own regulations regarding petroleum storage, and is therefore discriminatory. We would request that at the very least the storage of benzine in lighters be prohibited at once.

  1. Of the enclosures mentioned in this paragraph, only the Minister’s communication to the Foreign Office and its enclosure are printed.
  2. Ante, p. 571.
  3. Not printed. See despatch No. 886, Sept. 30, 1926, from the Chargé in Egypt, p. 574.