The Norwegian Minister (Morgenstierne) to the Secretary of State
Sir: I have been instructed by my Government to invite your attention to certain measures intended to regulate the shipment of goods between the United States and other countries, which measures are actually under consideration by administrative and legislative branches of the United States Government:
The Shipping Board Bureau of the Department of Commerce in a report entitled Docket No. 128 has proposed to the United States Government certain rules and regulations in connection with section 19 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
The main purport of these rules and regulations are as follows:
- All carriers by water, common carriers and others, transporting cargo from American to foreign ports must file with the United States Shipping Board Bureau its “rates, charges, rules and regulations” governing such transportation, thirty days before loading.
- The rates, charges, etc. so filed must be kept open to public inspection at the carriers’ principal business office in the United States ports from which its vessels operate.
- Any changes in the rates and charges must be made by new filing and the new rates become effective only thirty days after such new filing.
- The Shipping Board Bureau is authorized to excuse any carrier or carriers from the thirty days requirement and may permit changing of rates immediately without previous notice.
The foregoing regulations do not apply to “tramps” which the report describes as “carriers transporting on any one voyage cargo supplied by a single shipper only, under a single charter party or contract of affreightment”, nor to the transportation of “cargo loaded and carried in bulk without mark or count”.
A bill, commonly called the “Eastman Bill”, for the regulation of shipping in interstate and foreign commerce, has been introduced in the United States Senate as S. 1632. This bill applies to all water carriers of all flags transporting passengers or cargo between the United States and foreign countries with the exception of ships described as “a cargo boat commonly called an ocean tramp, carrying on any one voyage cargo supplied by one shipper only, under a single charterparty or contract of affreightment”. Incidentally, it is observed that these definitions of the word “ocean tramp” are so narrow as to exclude certain forms of ocean transportation generally effected by tramp steamers, such as for instance the transportation of lumber, sugar and other sorts of sack goods when carried in bulk with “counts and marks” for several shippers and under more than one charterparty or freight agreement, whether the ship is engaged for a trip or is chartered. With the exception of “ocean tramps”, as defined in the bill, it provides for regulation, through the Interstate Commerce Commission, of freights and rates and authorizes the Commission, upon the complaint of any carrier who is a party to a conference agreement approved by the proper agency of the United States Government to determine and prescribe minimum rates, fares and charges. I refer especially to sections 203,g and 224,c of the proposed bill and also to section 231 which provides for sanctions against parties violating section 223 and following sections without, incidentally, containing any provisions exonerating shipowners from liabilities for acts of charterers, affreighters and shippers.
My Government has instructed me to call to your attention that in their opinion the regulations proposed by the Shipping Board Bureau and the provisions of the bill S. 1632, in as much as they provide for control and regulation of freights, rates, charges and other matters with regard to Norwegian ships are not in accordance with section VII of the Treaty between Norway and the United States of June 5, 1928.8 As regards the general purport of the proposed administrative [Page 474] regulations and the bill S. 1632 I do not fail to refer to the Memorandum of February 14, 19349 which my predecessor handed the Under Secretary of State when the question of a Code of Fair Competition for the Shipping Industry was under consideration. As was the case with regard to the proposed code, the Norwegian Government again feel concerned over the consequences which would follow the imposition of such regulations as proposed by the Shipping Board Bureau and contained in the bill S. 1632 and feel that such regulations would not be consistent with the freedom of navigation as mutually guaranteed in the above mentioned treaty.