300.115(39)/232: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Kennedy ) to the Secretary of State

2098. Conference took place today between officials of the Embassy and Ministry of Economic Warfare at which we endeavored to set out and clarify principal complaints of American shippers and ship owners. Ministry of Economic Warfare explained practical difficulties with which they are confronted and gave assurance that every endeavor would be made to expedite examination and release of ships cargo.

The Ministry sent me this afternoon a printed statement, copies of which will be forwarded by pouch. This statement contains several suggestions which if followed by American shipping interests should minimize the delays to which our vessels are now subjected. The Ministry promises to supply a daily list of American vessels taken to contraband control bases. Vessels now reported by the Ministry as now detained are at Kirkwall SS Scanstates, at Weymouth SS Black Tern, at Ramsgate SS Black Falcon.

Following is statement from Ministry.

“Contraband control has now been in force for about a month. His Majesty’s Government are carrying out their published intention of [Page 796] exercising to the full their belligerent rights of visit and search. The rights they are exercising are in strict accordance with the law of nations. It is inevitable that the exercise of these rights should give rise to a certain amount of misunderstanding and friction, and His Majesty’s Government regret the delay which must inevitably be caused to neutral ships. These delays are certain to be more severe at the beginning. Later it is hoped that many of the difficulties will be eliminated as the result of trade agreements which are being negotiated with the various governments concerned. In particular, the Navicert system when it is introduced will, His Majesty’s Government believe, prevent many delays.74

It is desired, however, to indicate one or two ways in which, apart from such wide and general agreements, delays may be much mitigated. Shipments to order inevitably cause delay. It is appreciated that this form of shipment is very widely used, and in normal times is found very convenient. It is, however, very important that at the present time shipments to order should be kept within the narrowest possible limits.
Difficulty arises with regard to shipments to a bank, the bank obviously not being the real consignee of the goods. His Majesty’s Government appreciate that from a business point of view it may be important for the protection of banks that such shipments should continue. They are, in conjunction with the interests concerned, arranging system whereby shipments to a bank should continue, but the bill of lading will bear the words “notify A. B.,” A. B., of course, being the real consignee. No special facilities could, of course, be given to such shipments, but no disadvantage will attach to them by reason of the fact that the consignment is to a bank where the real consignee’s name is disclosed in the manner indicated.
In many cases where vessels sail from distant ports to European destinations it is possible to send in advance by air mail or otherwise a copy of the ship’s manifest, or at least of that part of it which relates to consignments to places outside the United Kingdom. The receipt of such a copy at the Ministry of Economic Warfare would enable enquiries to be set on foot, and sometimes to be completed before the arrival of the vessel itself. In such cases instructions could be sent enabling the vessel to proceed as soon as her manifest had been checked, and she would thus be able to leave the contraband control base with the very minimum of delay.
In some cases it has been found possible for shipping companies to give undertakings that they will keep under their control at the port of destination any consignments regarding which the contraband authorities wish to make enquiries, and that they will return to the United Kingdom any consignments which, as the result of enquiries, the contraband authorities wish to seize. In actual experience a good deal of time and trouble has been saved by an arrangement of this sort, but it is appreciated that the legal position at the foreign port may make it difficult for the shipping companies to enter into such an undertaking, or to fulfill it if they did enter into it.
It would often help to save delay if consignees could arrange to supply the Ministry of Economic Warfare in advance with a guarantee against the export of consignments which they are expecting, such guarantees being furnished either by themselves or, on their behalf, by their government.
Upon the whole, it is considered that the method by which shipping companies can most effectively assist in minimizing delay, is by arranging to send manifests in advance as indicated in paragraph 4 and by furnishing guarantees as indicated in paragraph 6.

London, October 14, 1939.”

  1. See pp. 717 ff.