Naval History and Heritage Command

The Navy Department Library

Related Content

Mers-el-Kebir Port Instructions for Merchant Vessels dated December 7, 1942. Located in "Merchant Vessels" vertical file.

Document Type
  • Monograph-Research Report
  • nhhc-topics:regulations-and-guidance
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials

Mers-el-Kebir Port Instructions for Merchant Vessels


1. The United States Naval Officer in Command of the port of Mers-el-Kebir is, at the time of this writing, Captain Mays Livingston Lewis, U.S. Navy. His title is "Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Station, Mers-el-Kebir". He is the representative of the Flag Officer in Command, Oran Area (Rear Admiral A. C. Bennett, U.S. Navy), who is located in Oran. His office is located inside the boom compound adjacent to the fuel oil tanks. Captain Lewis' position corresponds to the British N.O.I.C One B.N.L.O. is attached to the F.O.I.C, Oran Area, and one is also attached to the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Station, Mers-el-Kebir.

2. Telephone service (for official purposes only) is installed between the U.S. Naval Headquarters in Oran and the U.S. Naval Station, Mers-el-Kebir.

3. Ships in port will normally observe complete blackout. Exceptions may be made for cargo floodlights for the purpose of unloading cargoes which are urgently required (see paragraph 4 below) and for ships burning dim anchor lights when shipping is to move during darkness. Such exceptions are to be decided by the Commanding.Officer, U S. Naval Station Mers-el-Kebir. In all cases of an air raid warning or air attack complete blackout is to be immediately assumed.

4. Normally the harbor of Mers-el-Kebir is to be used for the berthing of Allied men-of-war only. In emergencies troop and cargo ships may be sent in to discharge. In this connection see paragraph 5 below. When troop or cargo ships are sent here to discharge, their berthing will take precedence over men-of-war. Entries and departures of ships are controlled by F.O.I.C, Oran Area. Berth assignments and movements of ships within the harbor are controlled by the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Base, Mers-el-Kebir. Essential line handling parties will be furnished by the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Station, Mers-el-Kebir. Ships are requested to use their own personnel where practicable. Pilots are available in Oran. During daylight one pilot remains on duty in Mers-el-Kebir.

5. Occasionally strong winds blow from the North and Northeast. This sets up ground swells which sometimes wash completely over the Mole. The ground swells penetrate the harbor and cause violent surging of ships and parting of lines. At times strong winds blow from the West and Northwest but cause no ground swells in the harbor.

6. Fresh water is very limited and must be transported from Oran. It is obtainable in emergencies in small quantities.

7. At present no provisions are available ashore. At a later date it is expected to maintain a limited stock.

8. There are some repair facilities for small vessels (ML's and smaller). A slip-way capable of hauling out ML's is available.

9. It is expected that fuel and lubricating oils will be available in MEK. At present there is very little.

10. Land transport between Mers-el-Kebir and Oran is practically non-existent. Ships are requested to use their own boats for transportation to and from Oran.

11. Shore leave and recreation has been authorized, by the Commanding General, Center Task Force, for ten percent of any unit at one time. Shore leave is to be during daylight only and ends for nonrated men at 1900, for petty officers at 2000, and for officers at 2100. Curfew is to be observed beginning at 2200.



12. This office maintains a mail service with F.O.I.C., Oran Area, in Oran, and will act as a collecting and distributing center. Outgoing mail will be forwarded to Oran for further despatch. No mail sent "By Hand of Officer" can be accepted when it requires further delivery "By Hand of Officer". Ships present will not be asked by this office, to close mails by a stated time. Outgoing personal mail must be properly censored. It is subject to further censorship. Ships should call periodically at MEK for mail.

13. The Port Director (Berthing Officer) at Mers-el-Kebir expects to maintain a correct chart of the Harbor. He will be glad to have navigators refer to this chart.

14. The U.S. Army (Port Commander) controls the discharge of transports and cargo ships. A representative of the Port Commander may be found in the office of the Berthing Officer.

15. Air Raid Procedure. Normally the U.S. Army Control Center at Fort Lamoune, Oran, will alert Mers-el-Kebir as well as other ports, shore based aircraft and airfields. Reports of unidentified aircraft are to be transmitted direct to the U.S. Naval Operating Base, Oran. On receipt of advance warning, FOIC Oran will,broadcast "Yellow" to all ships on the harbor frequency and will inform this office by telephone. Mers-el-Kebir Naval Station will hoist the yellow flag by day. On receipt of the final warning the U.S. Naval Operating Base will broadcast "Red" on the harbor frequency and inform this station by telephone, At this time or on hearing the siren, the red flag will be hoisted. On receipt of "All Clear" signal the FOIC Oran will broadcast "White" and inform this station by telephone, A succession of prolonged blasts on sirens or whistles indicates an air raid. One prolonged blast indicates all clear. Merchant ships are not to open fire on aircraft until after shore batteries or men-of-war have done so unless there is positive evidence that the craft is (are) enemy. Close range weapons on merchant ships or U.S. Navy manned ships are not to be fired at unseen targets or on targets out of range. When an air raid occurs all vessels in the harbor are to make funnel smoke.

16. There are no medical facilities at Mers-el-Kebir. There are limited U.S. Navy medical and dental facilities in Oran. Arrangements for these, as well as for ambulance, X-rays, etc, should be made with the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Station, Oran, who may be reached by telephone from ashore in Mers-el-Kebir. Telephone Number is Magic 65.

17. A garbage (sullage) lighter will call daily alongside ships for collection and disposal of garbage and trash. Garbage and trash are not to be dumped in the harbor. Oil and oil waste are not to be dumped in the harbor, but are to be put in the garbage lighter.

18. By night or one more open boats drop charges inside the harbor. This action is to prevent placing of charges under ships bottoms by enemy agents. Evidence of probable such enemy action will be indicated by signal "Human Torpedoes". When such signal is made ships (if practical) are to put their engines slow astern to prevent lodgement of charges under bottoms. Ships are to keep careful watch for approach of small suspicious craft, and to use their searchlights to identify such craft.

19. Ships are requested to report any suspected mine dropping by aircraft. Possible mine positions are to be passed to this office and to FOIC, Oran. Possible positions of mines should be from Mers-el-Kebir Point fixed light.


20. Four French tugs of low power are available in Mers-el-Kebir by day. One is available by night.

21. Some diving apparatus with personnel is available,

22. Photography of any items within the harbor, except for official purposes, is forbidden.

23-.Merchant vessels in the harbor are to remain on two hours notice.

24. Standard U.S. currency and regular British Sterling are not authorized as legal tender in North Africa and are not to be circulated. British Sterling includes Belfast, Scotland and Gibraltar sterling. The Disbursing Finance Officer (U.S. Army) located in Oran will exchange these currencies for money authorized for use in North Africa. The exchange rate is 75 Francs for one U.S. dollar - 300 Francs for one pound Sterling.

25. Ships are requested to return this letter before departure.

Mays L. Lewis,
Captain, U. S. Navy.



Published:Mon Nov 13 08:39:44 EST 2017