The Department of State to the Italian Embassy 1


It is recalled that Mr. Luciolli called at the Department of State on June 9, 1950 to discuss the question of the flag used on vessels registered in Trieste and calling in Yugoslav-controlled ports. It was indicated at that time that an inquiry would be made into the matter.

As a result of its inquiry, the Department has ascertained that the question has two aspects:

The type of registration certificate carried by Trieste vessels; and
The flag to be flown by such vessels when in Yugoslav-controlled waters.

With regard to the first point, the Department has been informed that the Italian Government has made certain suggestions with regard to the certificate carried by Trieste vessels, to avoid the possibility that Italian Consular officials abroad might not recognize such certificates and thus refuse to perform Consular services for Trieste vessels. The Department is informed that Allied Military Government in Zone A has accepted the proposals of the Italian Government and that the new certificate of registration for Trieste vessels will parallel Italian registration certificates, usually called “Act of Nationality”, although differing from such Italian certificates in that they will not indicate the nationality of the vessels nor prescribe the flag to be flown by it. Thus the use either of an Italian or a Trieste flag is not precluded.

With regard to the second aspect of the question, the Department understands that it first arose on April 8, 1950, when the Trieste [Page 1327] vessel Salvore was temporarily detained during a call at Fiume and was permitted to depart on condition that on future calls the ship carry an Act of Nationality and fly the Triestine instead of the Italian flag. It is understood that at that time Trieste vessels were flying the Italian flag exclusively, primarily to qualify for assistance by Italian Consular officers. Allied Military Government found no satisfactory alternative to advising the Trieste Merchant Marine to fly the Trieste flag whenever calling in a Zone B or a Yugoslav port. In this connection, it appears that the question of Consular assistance does not arise as there are neither Italian, United States, or United Kingdom Consuls in Yugoslav ports.

The Department is also informed that the Italian Government, when it learned of Allied Military Government’s advice in the matter, protested that there is no legal basis for flying the Trieste flag since the Free Territory of Trieste does not, it is maintained, exist in international law and therefore there is no Trieste flag. It is understood that the Italian Government further held that in this situation ships having Trieste registration have Italian nationality and can sail only under the Italian flag. Allied Military Government is understood to reject this argument, on the grounds that the legal existence of the Free Territory separate from Italy has been established.

In this latter connection, the Department would point out that even though the permanent statute of the Free Territory of Trieste (Annex VI of the Treaty of Peace with Italy) is not yet in force, in accordance with Article 21(2) of the Treaty, Italian sovereignty over the area of the Free Territory has ceased.

It is understood that a number of alternatives to the arrangements described above have been examined and rejected. One would be that Allied Military Government establish a new registration system completely distinct from the Italian system, with vessels flying the Trieste flag and protected overseas by United States and/or United Kingdom Consular officers. Obviously great administrative difficulties would ensue from such an arrangement, since the vessels are now registered and assessed and the crews are enlisted in conformity with Italian laws. Another alternative considered was that Triestine ship owners, especially of vessels likely to call in Yugoslav-controlled ports, transfer the registration of their ships to Venice, whence they would fly the Italian flag. The difficulties of this arrangement, including the difficulty of assuring employment to Trieste crews, are obvious.

The Department would point out that Allied Military Government has cooperated in accepting the requests of the Italian Government concerning alterations in registration certificates for Trieste vessels. The Department believes that a reasonable perspective of the further question of flags indicates the desirability of avoiding unnecessary and [Page 1328] indeed impractical controversy over it. It is hoped therefore that the Italian Government will share this view of the situation and will recognize the expediency of Trieste vessels flying the Trieste flag when calling in Yugoslav-controlled ports.2

  1. Handed to Mr. Luciolli by Mr. Greene on June 23, 1950.
  2. In an aide-mémoire from the Italian Embassy to the Department of State dated September 5, 1950, not printed, the Italian Embassy replied to the Department of State’s aide-mémoire of June 23. In its reply, the Italian Embassy noted that Italian maritime legislation was still in force in Trieste according to Article 1 of the instrument relative to the provisional regime of the Free Territory of Trieste, and that therefore vessels registered in the Maritime District of Trieste were authorized to fly the Italian flag. It was further noted that Article 33 of the permanent Statute of the Free Territory of Trieste was not applicable at that time, inasmuch as the application of the terms of the Statute during the provisional regime presupposed that a governor had been appointed. The Italian Embassy concluded that there were well-grounded reasons that in the prevailing situation, and according to the Italian legislation still in force, the vessels registered in Trieste should not be requested to fly flags other than Italian (765.04/9–550).