The Canadian Legation to the Department of State


On January 3rd, 1935, a Bill (H. R. 112) was introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the shipping laws of the United States by substituting the following language for that now appearing in Section 289 of Title 46 of the United States Code of Laws:

“No foreign vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States or its possessions, now or hereafter embraced within the coastwise laws, either directly or by way of a foreign port, or for any part of such transportation, nor on a continuous voyage terminating at the port of departure or at any other port in the United States or its aforesaid possessions, notwithstanding that said vessel enters or touches any foreign port on such voyage, under a penalty of $200 for each passenger so transported and landed.”

The wording of the present statute is as follows:

“No foreign vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the united States, either directly or by way of a foreign port, under a penalty of $200 for each passenger so transported and landed.”

The pending Bill is identical in content with Bills introduced in the 72nd Congress, which were the subject of a Memorandum left at the Department of State by the Canadian Legation on March 2nd, 1932.2 Since the Committee on Merchant Marine, Radio, and Fisheries of the House of Representatives is understood to have called a hearing on this measure for March 24th, the Canadian Legation has been instructed to bring once more to the attention of the Department of State the seriously detrimental effect of its passage on Canadian shipping interests. When this proposal was under consideration in [Page 606] 1932, it was understood that its purpose was to restrict to vessels registered in the United States tourist cruises from ports in this country. The adoption of the Bill would not only prevent Canadian shipping companies from conducting tourist cruises from United States ports, but would also bear most heavily on a large number of regular shipping lines engaged in ordinary passenger traffic between ports of Canada, the United States, and other countries.

Tourist cruises have been developed out of United States ports since the Great War in response to a widespread and increasing public demand for an opportunity to visit foreign ports, especially during the winter season, while enjoying the comfort of ocean travel on large liners. The traffic, which has grown up not only in the United States but also in many other parts of the world, is generally recognized as an entirely legitimate mercantile enterprise. The demand has been created and in large part served by foreign shipping companies, and Canadian companies have shared in meeting it. One Canadian shipping company maintains a winter cruising service from New York to ports in Venezuela, Panama, the British, French, and Dutch West Indies, Cuba, and Puerto Rico; these cruises are of three or four weeks’ duration, and are conducted on a regular schedule during the winter season. A similar cruising service is operated by another Canadian company from Boston to Panama and West Indian ports. It is not believed that cruises of this type are in any way competitive with regular all-year services maintained by United States lines. It is understood that the introduction of the bill in 1932 was prompted in part by objections to the so-called “cruises to nowhere” and to the practice of some foreign cruising vessels of calling at a port in Florida. These practices were not carried on by Canadian vessels, and it is believed that they were discontinued some years ago by all foreign cruising vessels.

In connection with the effects of the measure on regular Canadian shipping lines which visit United States ports, it may be pointed out that none of these lines was established with a view to the cruising traffic. Frequently, however, passengers desire to take a round-trip voyage, for example from New York to Montreal, or across Lake Ontario from Lewiston to Toronto, or from Seattle to Victoria and Vancouver. Any Canadian ship carrying a passenger from a port of the United States on such a round-trip would appear to be engaged “on a continuous voyage terminating at the port of departure”, and would therefore be liable under the proposed legislation to a penalty of $200 in respect of each passenger so transported.

On the Atlantic Coast a Canadian line maintains an all-year service, starting at Montreal in summer and at Halifax in winter, between Canada, Bermuda, and the British West Indies, and these vessels [Page 607] regularly call at Boston. A proportion of the passengers joining the vessels southbound at Boston returns on the same ships after visiting the regular ports of call in southern waters. The same company maintains a weekly service in winter between Boston and Bermuda. Another Canadian company has a regular winter service between New York and Bermuda and a regular summer service between New York and Montreal. These are all international services of exactly the same nature as services to European ports.

Long-established services on the Great Lakes would be placed in the same difficulty. For many years a popular and frequent passenger service has run from Toronto across Lake Ontario to ports two or three hours distant at the mouth of the Niagara River, including Lewiston, New York. Another short international route is from Cobourg to Rochester, New York. If a passenger embarked on one of these vessels at Lewiston or Rochester and chose to return on the same trip of the same vessel (a common practice, especially in warm weather) the vessel would become liable for the prescribed penalty of $200. Several other Canadian lines on the Great Lakes would be similarly affected, and it is believed that such a consequence is entirely foreign to the purpose of the proposal. It may be mentioned that it would not be feasible on brief voyages such as these and those on the Seattle-Victoria-Vancouver run for shipping companies so to examine the passengers as to eliminate all round-trip travellers.

On the Pacific Coast a service, inaugurated in 1904, has been maintained for many years by a Canadian company between Victoria, Vancouver, and Seattle; two trips are made daily on an all-year schedule, and by mutual arrangement tickets of this line are honoured on vessels of a United States line which participates in the traffic. Though this is a stable passenger service, it is also used for excursion purposes and for round-trip traffic on business or pleasure; the passage of this measure would gravely interfere with its operation.

The measure would bear with especial weight on lines operating between ports in British Columbia and Alaska. Two Canadian lines maintain services between Vancouver and Skagway, Alaska, which is the port through which practically all traffic between the Canadian Yukon and the rest of Canada must pass. One, an all-year service, was inaugurated in 1898; the other, started in 1912, is an extension in summer months of a service between Vancouver and Prince Rupert. (United States vessels participate in the traffic between Canada and Alaska by calling at Vancouver and Victoria). This measure would forbid foreign vessels from transporting passengers between “ports or places in the United States or its possessions …, either directly or by way of a foreign port, or for any fart of such transportation.” [Page 608] This would appear to prohibit, for example, a Canadian ship from carrying from Skagway to Vancouver a passenger going from Alaska to any destination in the United States under penalty of being fined $200 on its return to Skagway.

The Bill indeed would seem to make it unlawful for all residents of the United States or Alaska to be carried on Canadian vessels for part of their journey to or from Alaska, either on a single voyage or on a round trip. This might even apply to a resident of the United States who wished to travel from the United States to a destination in the Canadian Yukon or northern British Columbia, which he could only reach through an Alaskan port.

Canadian trans-Pacific services to the Orient and Australasia which call at Honolulu would apparently be similarly debarred from carrying between Vancouver and Honolulu any passengers coming from or destined to any place in the United States.

It has been thought desirable to indicate in some detail in this Memorandum the effect of the adoption of this measure on Canadian shipping services. In general it may be said that legislation so widely extending the principle of coastwise shipping laws is not only contrary to long accepted practice, but must also tend to intensify and increase restrictions imposed on shipping generally, to the serious detriment of travel facilities between nations. The legislation would broaden the scope of the coastwise shipping laws of the United States so greatly as to make them apply in certain important respects to Canadian ports as well. The Bill would embrace regular services long maintained by Canadian lines, with which it is apparently not intended to interfere; and these services, convenient and necessary as they are to the regular commerce of both countries, would be hampered and restricted, if not actually eliminated, should the Bill be passed without extensive amendments.