The Italian Embassy to the Department of State
The attention of the Italian Embassy has been called upon a Bill (H. R. 3842) recently introduced in the House of Representatives “to provide for deportation of certain alien seamen and for other purposes.”
Since the Italian Embassy has already had the opportunity of making some remarks on a similar Bill which had been discussed by the Committee on Immigration of both branches of Congress on a previous session, the Embassy begs to refer to the memorandum handed to the Department of State on the subject on December 28, 1931.3
The Italian Embassy would respectfully point out again on this occasion that the provision of the Bill (H. R. 3842) dealing with the so-called “full crew” question is bound to create, if adopted, an unnecessary hardship for the Italian shipping with the United States.
Section 6 of the Bill provides “that all vessels entering ports of the United States manned with crews the majority of which, exclusive of licensed officers, have been engaged and taken on foreign ports, shall, when departing from United States ports, carry a crew of at least equal number, and any such vessel which fails to comply with this requirement shall be refused clearance.”
With regard to this provision, it is pointed out that Italian ships are manned with crews the number of which is usually somewhat larger than that which is required by the regulations concerning the safety [Page 987]of human life at sea. This is particularly true of the newly built Italian passenger boats, the servant-personnel of which is large enough to ensure to the passengers the amplest measure of comfort.
It is evident therefore that any vacancy in the personnel arising from death, hospitalization or other causes, can easily be balanced by the surplus of personnel which is kept available by the Italian Companies precisely to face such cases of emergency.
This being the situation, the provision contemplated by the “full crew” clause appears to be superfluous in the case of Italy, while it would be bound to cause considerable difficulties to the Italian Lines, owing to the fact that, in cases of desertions occurring at the last minute, the prescribed replacement of deserters might result in a serious loss of time.
As a matter of fact it might happen that, if men possessing necessary requirements were not found on the spot, the ship would be forced to remain in port much longer than scheduled, which would upset the regularity of the service.
There are other features of the Bill—namely those concerning the inspection of seamen on the part of Immigration and medical authorities at the Quarantine—which appear to the Italian Embassy as adding to the present practice an unnecessary rigor. With regard to these provisions it is pointed out that the existing Italian regulations are such as to provide the means for establishing, in the strictest and surest manner, the identity of each single member of the crews of national ships. In fact no one is allowed to embark for service on Italian ships unless he has first been entered in the Register of one of the Branches of the Maritime Service and unless he has been furnished with a regular Seaman-Service-Book (Libretto di Navigazione) containing all data relative to the personal identity (including photograph) of the holder and to the duties specifically performed by him in the merchant Marine or in the Royal Navy.
Moreover, the final permission for which every seaman must apply before embarking in an Italian port is granted by the Italian authorities only when they have ascertained that the record of the applicant is fully satisfactory both on criminal and moral grounds. Such a procedure confers to the Libretto di Navigazione the character and value of a passport and as such is always accepted where seamen are concerned.
It seems to the Italian Embassy that the Bill in question, aside from the inconveniences it would cause to the maritime traffic with the United States, would also be inconsistent with the well established custom and international practice in relation to shipping, which place the crew of a vessel in a foreign port—as long as this does not interfere [Page 988]with conditions existing in the country to which it has temporarily come—in charge of the Master and under the supervision of the proper consular authorities.