300.115(39) Oakman/8: Telegram

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

1374. Your 2236, November 1, 5 p.m. Statement of Ministry of Economic Warfare seems to concede that the Oakman was delayed 10 days or more while British authorities were bringing themselves to accept facts evidenced by ship’s papers which showed innocent character of cargo and vessels and that therefore there was no “probable cause” for seizure or detention. Manifestly the damages resulting from such acts of British Government should not be allowed to fall on the innocent neutrals involved. Therefore please request statement from Ministry as to what is contemplated by it in the way of compensation to innocent parties for damages resulting in this manner.

In this connection you may also call to the attention of the Ministry the fact that the Gulf Mediterranean Ports Conference representing shipping companies operating vessels from United States to Mediterranean ports has filed complaint regarding interferences with vessels at Gibraltar, from which complaint the following is an extract:

“Shortly following the outbreak of War the British Contraband Control Committee began taking vessels into Gibraltar for examination, and latterly those belonging to American and Italian owners have suffered serious detention. Our members are cooperating to the extent of issuing only straight bills of lading (this practice became effective about October 12th), and since that time also copies of manifests have been sent by Clipper Ship to London to the Ministry of Economic Warfare with the object of having them conduct any necessary investigation prior to the arrival of vessels at Gibraltar.

“Striving as we are to meet British requirements we should like to see inspection expedited at Gibraltar, and to this end shall appreciate it if you will use your good offices with the British Government. We would state that the Lines have been endeavoring to secure some expression from the British authorities as to the requirements which must be met in order to avoid or minimize detention of vessels but no definite information has been obtained up to this time.

“We foresee that unless speedy handling can be had at Gibraltar, sailing schedules from this side will be seriously interrupted with consequent injury to American commerce.”

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The foregoing seems to indicate that the difficulties complained of are resulting despite the fact that the cooperative procedure suggested by the Ministry has been observed by shippers in the past.

You may advise Ministry that it is the view of this Government that the situation at Gibraltar is a serious one which it is believed merits the British Government’s prompt and effective efforts to rectify.