811.114 Reidun/70

The Minister in Norway (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

No. 93

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 16, November 12, 1935, 4 p.m.,54 in regard, inter alia, to the probability that the Norwegian steamship Reidun, then engaged in unloading alcohol on the high seas, might be violating Norwegian law concerning the participation of this country’s vessels in smuggling operations directed against a foreign country. While, as the Department has since been informed,55 I promptly brought this intelligence [Page 440] to the attention of the Foreign Office and have received assurances that the appropriate Norwegian authorities (the Ministry of Justice, in particular) were engaged in investigating the case, no decision in the matter has yet been reached.

I have today, however, had a pertinent conversation of possible interest to the Department with Mr. Arne Rygh, an Oslo attorney who called in the Legation, by appointment, to discuss a problem confronting the Reidun.…

… While it was possible that the Reidun’s captain, who had permitted discharge of cargo on the high seas, might be held technically to have violated Norwegian law, it was doubtful if any Norwegian court would penalize him since the charter party provided for off-shore unloading (admittedly a vague term capable of a variety of interpretations) while, lacking a radio, the Reidun could not call for instructions when approached with a request, or demand, for discharge of cargo on the high seas. The cargo had actually been discharged off Newfoundland. At the same time, the Norwegian judicial authorities were continuing their investigation.

It was, however, not for the purpose of supplying the above information that Mr. Rygh had called in the Legation, but in order to request the opinion of its officers concerning the possibility of the Reidun’s being seized by the United States authorities if the vessel, which had admittedly discharged alcohol at sea, should enter American territorial waters. He added that the vessel was at present in the West Indies, but that its owners contemplated sending it, under time charter, to United States ports.

In reply to Mr. Rygh’s inquiry, I stated that I could give no assurances of the character desired, although I assumed that from information supplied the Legation in parallel cases, discharge of cargo at sea was of itself not sufficient to affect the vessel, although very possibly if, by the manifest, cargo were destined for United States ports and failed to be delivered there, some penalty could be imposed. I did not, however, encourage him to think that a vessel such as the Reidun could on one occasion form a link in a chain of smuggling activities and then expect the past to be completely overlooked by the American authorities.

Respectfully yours,

A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr.
  1. Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. i, p. 436.
  2. See telegram No. 25, November 13, 1935, 2 p.m., from the Minister in Norway, ibid., p. 437.