865.85/365b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Uruguay ( Chapin )

62. Your 152, April 12, 10 a.m. The text of Guam’s telegram regarding the shipping situation was submitted to the Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee on April 16. It was agreed that the members of the Committee would submit this question [Page 190] to their respective governments and endeavor to secure instructions so that action may be taken at the next meeting of the Committee, scheduled for April 22.

Please inform Guani that the Department, on the basis of his telegram, has drafted a resolution which it proposes to submit to the Committee on April 22. The following is the preliminary text of that resolution, which has been made available to the Uruguayan Minister here:


Subparagraph (D) of Article 2, Resolution III, on economic cooperation, of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics at Panamá in 1939 charged the Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee with studying and proposing to the Governments the most effective measures for mutual cooperation to lessen or offset dislocations in the trade of the American republics resulting from the present war;

The commerce of the American republics has normally been carried on in large measure in merchant vessels of non-American powers, many of which are not available for such trade because of the increasing rate of destruction of the means of maritime transportation by the belligerent nations, the consequent increased diversion of such vessels to other trades, and the prolonged stationing by their owners of a large number of such vessels in American ports interrupting their normal commercial activities; and

The resulting shipping shortage has prejudiced and is prejudicing the commerce of and among the American republics, creating a very grave problem for the fundamental right of the nations of the Americas to preserve the trade which is essential to their normal existence.

The Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee


To recommend to the Governments of the American Republics:

That they declare that the foreign flag vessels in American ports, the normal commercial activities of which have been interrupted as a consequence of the war, should now be utilized by the American republics in such a manner as to promote the defense of their economies as well as the peace and security of the continent.
That taking into account
the fact that these vessels, by reason of their continued presence in American ports after the cessation of their normal commercial activities are no longer entitled to the status of ordinary trading vessels.
that this change of status and the legal consequences flowing therefrom were recognized in a recommendation of the Inter-American Neutrality Committee on the subject of the Security Zone, which was among the recommendations the adoption of which into the domestic legislations of the American republics was recommended by Resolution I of the [Page 191] Second Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics at Habana in July 1940,8
the American Republics declare that they are entitled to assume complete jurisdiction and control over such vessels, and may take such action in regard to them as may be in accordance with the rules of international law and the provisions of their own national legislation and administrative regulations.
That just and adequate compensation for the utilization of the said vessels be made in accordance with the commonly-accepted rules of international law and the national legislations of the individual American states.”

The Department is of the opinion that this resolution adequately meets the needs of the situation described in Guani’s telegram to the Committee. Please discuss the situation with him and let us have his comments. It is hoped that he will instruct the Uruguayan representative to support this resolution.

Please, at the same time, inform Guani that, if and when the President of the United States is granted the authority which he has requested from Congress to purchase, requisition or take over foreign ships in American ports, it is proposed to dispose of those ships in such a way as will advance both the participation of the United States in the carrying of inter-American trade and the cause of Great Britain, to which the United States has pledged fullest support and which the United States believes to be vital to the peace and security of the entire continent. It is hoped that, if and when the Uruguayan Government assumes control of the ships in question in its ports, it will consider favorably conferring with the United States and with the Governments of other interested American Republics in order that the two objectives mentioned may be forwarded to the utmost in the utilization of these vessels.

  1. For correspondence concerning this Meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. v, pp. 180 ff.; for Resolution I, see Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1940, p. 129.