Memorandum by Mr. Harley Notter of the Liaison Office to the Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Duggan)

Transfer of the “Wesermünde” to the Honduran Flag

Mr. Duggan: The circumstances surrounding the transfer of this ship to the Honduran flag are in brief the following:

The Wesermünde was transferred in 1936 from British ownership (Elders & Fyffes, Limited, i. e. the United Fruit Company) and registry transferred to German registry. Her home port thereafter was Bremen, her flag was German, and her managers were “Union” Handels-und Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m. b. H. There is some uncertainty whether this German manager company may not have become also the owner, but it appears that underneath any company names the United Fruit remained the real owner.

On November 18, 1939 it was reported to the Department from Barranquilla that the United Fruit Company was sending some of its officers, all American, to take the German merchant vessel to the Canal Zone. This telegram was followed the next day by a telegram from Curaçao that the German crew had been discharged by the ship; that the ship would be transferred to the Honduran flag and sailed to Panama by American officers; and that the British Consul had given assurances that the vessel would not be molested (by the British cruiser patrolling outside the harbor of Curaçao, where the ship was, or otherwise).

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On January 6, 1940 a telegram from Curaçao reported that transfer of the flag to Honduran nationality had been completed. The new “owner” is the Mayan S. S. Corporation—which is of course understood to be United Fruit Company. The provisional certificate of registry was issued by the Honorary Consul of Honduras in Curaçao. The ship evidently sailed as scheduled for Panama on January 6, without Germans in the crew.

After the transfer of the flag from German to Honduran registry, the Wesermünde was renamed the Chirripo.

As you no doubt have noted, in referring to this case in my tabulations, I have been careful to say that the ship was transferred to the Honduran flag. It was not a case of purchase. Undoubtedly the British were willing to give assurances that this transfer of flag would not subject the vessel to molestation because of the actual ownership of the vessel by the United Fruit Company,—though for a full two years the vessel (built in 1920) had a German registration and flag.

Harley Notter