724. Memorandum from Rusk to President Johnson, December 111

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  • Amendment of NSAM 220 Governing Foreign Flag Shipping in the Cuba Trade

National Security Action Memorandum 220 of February 5, 1963 provides that shipments financed by the Departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, General Services Administration and the Agency for International Development should not be shipped from the United States on a foreign flag vessel if that vessel called at a Cuban port on or after January 1, 1963. NSAM 220 also provides for removal of a vessel from the periodic Commerce Department list of ineligible ships when its owners give satisfactory assurances that no ships under their control will thenceforth be employed in the Cuba trade so long as that is against United States Government policy.

Basil Mavroleon, British ship operator who owns or controls about half the gross tonnage of British flag vessels engaged in shipping to Cuba, has offered to agree in writing that no vessel under his control will be in the Cuba trade after February 1965. Specifically, he has offered to give assurances to the United States that 50 of his vessels will not henceforth go to Cuba and all 35 of his ships under charter to the Sino-Soviet bloc which permit calls in Cuba will be withdrawn [Typeset Page 1849] as their charters expire. He has stated that nine of these vessels would be out of the trade by August 1964, an additional nineteen ships by November, and the remaining seven vessels by February 1965. A total of 26 of his ships have engaged in shipping to Cuba since the beginning of this year.

We, for our part, would agree to remove his ships [Facsimile Page 2] from the Commerce list as their charters expire. The sanction for breach of the agreement would be that all ships owned or controlled by Mavroleon could be placed on the Commerce list.

We have information that other Greek shipowners are interested in discussing similar agreements with us.

NSAM 220 will have to be modified to permit the conclusion of such an arrangement with Mavroleon, and I am enclosing with this memorandum a suggested amendment providing for an exception to the provisions of NSAM 220.

While we recognize that persons critical of our Cuban shipping policy might attack the proposed amendment of NSAM as a relaxation of our position of restricting the Cuba trade, we can show that the agreements which we expect to conclude with Mavroleon and other shipowners would over the period of the next twelve to eighteen months result in the removal of a substantial number of Free World vessels now engaged in shipping to Cuba. Failure to take advantage of such offers could only prolong the present situation in which shipowners renegotiate charters with the Soviets as they expire.

I recommend that you give the amendment favorable consideration at an early date. If approval is given, we will continue our efforts to conclude agreements with Mavroleon and other shipowners. We will inform the appropriate maritime unions of our actions when an agreement with Mavroleon has been concluded. I further suggest that an announcement of your decision be withheld until the Mavroleon agreement has been concluded and the unions informed.

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We plan to emphasize in our public treatment of this action that the amendment will result in the sure and substantial reduction over the next months of free world shipping now engaged in the Cuban trade.

The Department of Commerce concurs in these recommendations.

Dean Rusk


Suggested Amendment to NSAM 220 of February 5, 1963.

  1. Amendment of NSAM 220 governing foreign flag shipping in the Cuba trade. Confidential. 3 pp. Kennedy Library, NSF, Countries Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 220.