The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy)
1481. The following telegram from the President of the American President Lines is repeated for your information:
“American President Lines respectfully requests Department of State register protest with the British Government concerning the methods employed by the British Naval patrol at Port Said and Alexandria in searching vessels of this company. Thus far two of our steamers, the President Hayes and President Polk, have undergone these searches and as a result the President Hayes was delayed 3 days and the President Polk at least 2 days. Apparently all cargoes consigned Genoa or destined for transshipment Genoa to interior are being taken from our ships notwithstanding the fact that as far as our [Page 808] records show there are few if any new consignees or unusual cargoes involved. Practically all shipments thus far involved are going to consignees for whom we have carried similar cargoes for several years and there seems to be little increase these cargoes since inception of war. As example of what we consider are poor methods of operation would cite substantial consignment of rubber destined for Michelin Genoa French Company removed from President Hayes at Alexandria held that port 2 weeks then reloaded President Polk. Fact that British authorities allowed this eventual delivery indicates that shipment ought never have been interfered with in first place. Also some 1332 packages removed from President Polk at Alexandria about half of which shipped from Singapore, Penang, Colombo and Bombay, all of which are British ports and we at loss to understand why cargoes carried by us from British possessions subject to interference later by British contraband patrol. If we compelled to undergo inconvenience in future similar to those experienced on these two vessels tremendous expense due [to?] so many days delay and inability to maintain schedules will seriously affect whole round-world operation this line. Delay to the two vessels alone so great that whole schedule will be upset for many months from now on.”
As indicated in Department’s telegram no. 1374 of November 4, it is the view of this Government that the detention of vessels and cargoes for the purposes of satisfying the minds of the British authorities regarding facts evidenced by ships’ papers, in the absence of substantial evidence casting doubt upon such documents, and especially when such investigation demonstrates the accuracy of the documents, gives rise to legitimate claims for damages, which claims this Government will, upon the basis of appropriate evidence, feel it necessary to support. Please discuss this matter with the Ministry of Economic Warfare in the sense of the foregoing and report whether in your opinion any substantial precautions are being taken by the British authorities to obviate claims of this kind and if so the nature of such measures.