The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt
My Dear Mr. President: During the summer of 1941 the Seatrain Lines, carrying freight cars in an ocean service between Gulf [Page 344] ports, Habana, and New York, placed two of its five vessels at the service of the Maritime Commission. The Seatrain service has for many years been an integral part of the transportation system between the United States and Cuba.
The importance of this service to Cuba is demonstrated by the fact that in December 1941 one-fifth of all imports by Cuba from this country and about one-third of the exports from Cuba to the United States were carried by Seatrains. Among the export cargoes from Cuba which move in this manner are strategically essential sugar, molasses, ores, minerals and scrap metals. The Seatrains are loading their capacity of about 90 to 105 American freight cars per trip. This means a very fast turn around and a considerable economy of relatively scarce labor.
The Department understands that the withdrawal of the remaining Seatrains is about to be recommended to you for approval. It may be that the exigencies of the national defense will require the use of these vessels for the specific purposes for which withdrawal will make them available. However, the service is not only vital to Cuban economy but is highly important to the United States. Defense ores and large quantities of sugar and molasses contracted for by the Federal Loan Agency and which cannot otherwise be transported are involved, as well as the distinct disturbance to the whole economy of Cuba.