The counselor of the British Embassy (Butler) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)
Dear Mr. Long: You will no doubt know that after our meeting about a fortnight ago on the subject of the Gulf Oil Company tankers, the question was discussed at length in New York between representatives of the Gulf Company, M. Boël, Chief of the Belgian Economic Mission in London, and Sir Ashley Sparks, the representative of the British Ministry of Shipping in this country. The outcome of this meeting was set out in the letter which M. Boël and Sir Ashley Sparks sent to Mr. Newton on January 21st. I understand that a copy of this letter was communicated to the State Department by the Belgian Embassy a few days ago.
In their letter M. Boël and Sir Ashley Sparks proposed that in the first place the four vessels should be restored to the Belgian flag in order to dispose of the present legal dispute. Thereafter, if at any time the United States Government required any or all of the vessels to be available for their own service, approval would be forthcoming at once from the Belgian Government for the transfer of the tankers to another flag, preferably to that of the United States, in order to permit their subsequent employment by the Navy Department.
Although all four of the vessels had been earmarked for service under the British Ministry of Shipping, the Gulf Oil Company were informed that the British and Belgian authorities would be prepared to relinquish their claims on these particular vessels at any time that the United States authorities required. However, Sir Ashley Sparks and M. Boël in their discussions with the Gulf Oil Company proposed, subject to the approval of the authorities in London, that if more than two of the tankers are to be made available for United States service, then an amount of tonnage equivalent to the third and fourth tankers should be placed at the disposal of the British Ministry of Shipping. We have been advised, and Mr. Newton was so informed, that the authorities in London would be perfectly willing that any of the ships [Page 8]left in British service should be used to carry the Gulf Oil Company’s quota of lubricating oil to the United Kingdom. Until recently the British authorities have been furnishing tonnage for this purpose.
I hope you will agree that the proposals made to the Gulf Oil Company would offer a satisfactory way out of the present impasse. I need hardly say, however, that if the United States authorities have any alternative suggestions to make, we should be very glad to communicate them to the British Ministry of Shipping.
Yours very sincerely,