The German Embassy to the Department of State


The German Embassy has learned that Congressman Bland’s Bill (H. R. 112), introduced in the First Session of the 74th Congress on January 3, 1935, will in a few days be made the subject of hearings by the Committee on Merchant Marine, Radio and Fisheries, and has the honor to refer to the German Embassy’s Memorandum of February 27, 1932,7 and the note of April 21, 19338 in which the serious objections of the German Government to Bills H. R. 8875 and H. R. 1494, the wording of which is identical with the bill introduced just last year, were expressed.

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In view of the impending discussion of the Bland Bill, the German Embassy again finds itself impelled to express its serious objections to this bill.

The German Embassy herewith ventures to point out again that H. R. 112 provides for an extension of the conception of “coastwise navigation”, which would mean a serious restriction of the principle of the freedom of navigation. The bill, which aims at subjecting to the existing restriction on coastwise navigation the transportation of passengers from an American port via a foreign port situated nearby back to an American port, would considerably restrict, if not render entirely impossible, the cruises developed by the German navigation lines in a practice covering many years, which form a legitimate branch of international navigation.

Furthermore, it has always been a recognized principle of international law that the transportation of persons and cargoes on the high seas shall be free and open to ships of all nations in the same way. By the contemplated extension of the conception of coastwise navigation, a considerable share of the heretofore free transportation of persons and goods would be claimed as the prerogative of a certain national flag.

Aside from these generally applicable views on international law, however, weighty objections to the contemplated expansion of the conception of “coastwise navigation” are to be raised from the standpoint of treaty rights.

The expansion of the conception of coastwise navigation is incompatible with Article XI of the German-American Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights,9 which was based on the conception of coastwise navigation as it prevailed at the time of the conclusion of the treaty. A unilateral extension of this conception cannot be agreed upon. The value of the stipulations referring to navigation contained in the above-mentioned treaty would be considerably reduced for Germany by such an extension. The payment of $200 per passenger which would be demanded for round trips which previously, in accordance with the treaty, had not been considered as coastwise navigation, would have to be regarded as a violation of this treaty.

The German Embassy would be grateful to the Department of State of the United States, if care were taken that the above points of view were considered during the discussion of the bills by the competent American authorities.