893.825/20: Telegram

The Minister in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

1006. Department’s 403, November 2, noon. Following from American Consul General at Shanghai.

“[1.] November 24, 2 p.m. Referring to the Legation’s telegram November 3, 5 p.m., regarding pilotage. The special report of investigation into the conditions of the Shanghai pilotage service has been completed and was delivered to the Pilotage Board on October 23rd. To give an opportunity to study the report the meeting was adjourned until November 10th. Upon reassembling, instead of considering the report, a new proposal emanating from the pilots was made which received the endorsement of the shipping committee, the harbor master and the pilots. In substance the proposal was that the existing tariff should continue arrangement for the compulsory pilotage between Woosung and Shanghai of all vessels of 450 feet. The consular body’s representative stated that he was not authorized to approve this new proposal. The Pilotage Board being unable to reach a unanimous decision the question is to be referred to the pilotage authority on December 1.

2. The shipping committee of the local Chamber of Commerce which considered compulsory pilotage decided by a majority vote to support the pilots’ request.

The Dollar Steamship Company which paid slightly over 10 percent of the total pilotage fees for the year ending June 30, 1931 was not at this meeting. This American company realizes that compulsory pilotage and also the complete taking over of the pilotage by the Customs are only a matter of time, but it desires to defer them as long as possible.

3. To introduce compulsory pilotage will require, in my opinion, amendment of the harbor regulations which cannot become a fait [Page 595] accompli without the concurrence of the powers concerned nor can compulsory pilotage be enforced except by mutual consent. It is true that it might become expedient to comply with the request for compulsory pilotage because the Chinese are past masters in finding devious ways to enforce any regulations they may have.

4. From informal conversations it is learned that consular representatives of the powers principally concerned are by no means unanimous in the opinion that the pilotage cannot be taken over by the customs “legally” without the consent of the powers concerned. The British Consul General is not averse to the immediate taking over by the customs of the pilotage. As a matter of interest it may be stated that the pilotage association is composed of 20 British, 2 Danes, 5 Frenchmen, 4 Japanese, 3 Americans, and 1 each of Dutch, German, Norwegian and Chinese nationalities.

5. I should deeply regret the abandonment of legal rights without mutual agreement and venture to express the hope that legal rights will be insisted upon. My own views are that Shanghai as a port is not peculiar in any particular from other large ports of the world when pilotage is being considered. Other ports I believe find compulsory pilotage for the best interest of shipping and therefore one must necessarily conclude that this would be true in Shanghai. I do not see any well-founded reason why pilotage should not be placed under the Customs at a very early date provided a guarantee may be secured from the National Government that tariffs will not be changed without the consent of the powers concerned and provided further that adequate and efficient pilots will be procured.

6. The Legation’s instructions as to the attitude I should take at the meeting on December 1 will be greatly appreciated.”

For the Minister:
  1. Telegram in three sections.