811.114 Reidun/82

The Norwegian Minister (Morgenstierne) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the interview which I had with the Assistant Secretary of State, Honorable Wilbur Carr, on the 16th [Page 441] instant, at which occasion Mr. William R. Vallance of the State Department was also present, with regard to the detention by the Customs authorities in New York City of the Norwegian S/S Reidun.

According to information submitted to the Legation by the Norwegian Consulate General in New York the Reidun which was to have sailed from New York on Saturday the 14th instant, was refused clearing and is still being held in New York. The Norwegian Consul General was told Saturday afternoon at the Custom House where Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Stephen B. Gibbons, and several customs officers were present, that the Reidun was being held for a double reason, viz. for questioning of the officers and crew in connection with the death of the Reidun’s captain, during the night between Wednesday March 11th and Thursday March 12th due to suffocation from smoke caused by a fire in the captain’s cabin, as well as for alleged unloading in November 1935 of liquor at St. Pierre-Miquelon, in waters adjacent to the territorial waters of the United States.

The Consul General immediately took the matter up verbally with the Collector of Customs, New York, and in a letter to him dated March 14, 1936, protested against the detention of the Reidun on the ground that such detention, under the existing treaties between Norway and the United States, was not justified by the circumstances of the case.

As to the reported contention that the Reidun is being held for questioning of the officers and crew in connection with the Captain’s death, I venture to point out that a maritime hearing in accordance with Norwegian law was held on board on March 13, 1936, and that the death of the Captain was found to be due to suffocation from smoke emanating from a fire in his cabin. The Police Report dated March 12th 1936, and signed by Lieutenant Cornelius Sheehan of the 27th Precinct, explicitly cites the same cause of death. I beg to enclose copy of said report.56 There seems to be no reason to suspect that a crime has been committed, and the Consulate General is not aware that any investigation which may have been conducted by the United States authorities has revealed any indication of such having been the case. According to Article XXII of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights between Norway and the United States of America of June 5th, 1928,57 a consular officer shall have exclusive jurisdiction with regard to private vessels of his country except when an act has been committed onboard which constitutes a crime according to the laws of the State to which such consular officer has been appointed.

[Page 442]

The Consulate General informs the Legation that a hearing was held on board the Reidun by American authorities in the evening of March 13th, but that the Consulate General was not informed beforehand that such hearing was going to take place and thus had no opportunity to be represented at a hearing of such importance to Norwegian citizens and interests. In this connection I beg to call attention to Article XXII, last paragraph, of the above-mentioned Treaty.

As regards the reported contention that the Reidun is being held for alleged unloading of cargo consisting of liquor in waters adjacent to the territorial waters of the United States you will recall that the activities of the Reidun in November last year have been the subject of correspondence between the Department of State and this Legation as well as between the Legation of the United States of America in Oslo and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. May I be permitted in this connection to recall the cooperation which the Norwegian Government for a number of years have been giving the American Government with regard to the prevention of smuggling activities outside the coast of the United States.

On the occasion referred to the alleged unloading of cargo from the Reidun took place near St. Pierre-Miquelon and far beyond any territorial waters of the United States of America and at a far greater distance from the American coast than the distance stipulated in Article II, section 3 of the Convention between Norway and the United States regarding Prevention of Smuggling of Intoxicating Liquors of May 24, 1924.58 It is my understanding that it has not been maintained by the Department of State that the alleged activities of the Reidun on the occasion referred to constituted any breach of American law or Norwegian-American treaty stipulations.

At the instance of the Norwegian Government the question of the Reidun’s alleged participation in smuggling activities has been carefully investigated by the Public Prosecution of Norway and it has been established that the owners of the Reidun acted in absolutely good faith having timechartered the ship with the explicit reservation that it should be employed in lawful trade only. My Government maintain that in their opinion neither the said Convention between Norway and the United States nor general principles of international law can justify the detention of the Reidun on account of its previous alleged activities as referred to.

Referring to the above and acting under instructions from my Government, I have the honor, therefore, to voice their most earnest objection to the detention of the Reidun and to state that the Norwegian Government shall feel constrained to reserve their rights to [Page 443] claim compensation for any loss or damage of whatever kind to the Reidun and its owners, captain, officers, crew and others which may result from the detention of the ship in New York.

Accept [etc.]

W. Morgenstierne