Bainbridge Colby, United States Shipping Board, to Commander Paul Foley
Subject Copy. File No.
Cablegram Received January 06209 ROC
Origin Opnav Washington. Ser. No. 2028
Ref’d. to Date ACTION, NOTES and INITIALS.
CS-2 9 Jan. <AC>
2028. Transmit following message with copy for Foley QUOTE Sir Joseph Maclay Minister of Shipping.
I have established priority of all cable messages between Shipping Board and Ministry of Shipping. Suggest you arrange for supplemental line into your office as we are doing here to make exchanges in quickest possible time. Intend using wire freely and daily on all ship movements. Cable your suggestions and ideas with freedom. Have been very busy on fuel oil since return realize its crucial effects. Have been in frequent conference with Black and Raeburn and in personal conference with all important oil producers of country. Situation here is very critical and withdrawal of tankers will reduce output of fuel oil upon which you are depending and which we are counting upon sending to you. The question is not merely stoppage of war industry although we are at the point where withdrawal of additional tankers brings that possibility very close. It is a question of failure of fuel oil which you desire tankers to transport unless our refineries can obtain required amount of crude oil for which transportation facilities both by sea and land are even now barely adequate. Black reiterates request for tankers and we do not seem able to convinceingly impress him with results above set forth which cannot be escaped if there is further withdrawal of tankers from present service. Am communicating direct with you as I feel that perhaps some of your assistants are so intent upon discharge of responsibilities assigned to them and the urge of what they deem easiest solution, that they do not realize rigid conditions which limit our abilities to respond and which if ignored will complicate seriously the very problem we are both trying to solve. I make following statement of our efforts to meet situation of which I ask your own personal examination to wit:
In response to proposal that America provide one hundred thousand tons additional tanker tonnage Sir Frederick Black has at our request investigated disposition of American tankers and has suggested withdrawal twenty steamers from Atlantic coastwise and Mexican service. If this done would result as stated in making it impossible for us to supply total quantity petroleum requested for war purposes abroad and essential war industry in east States as American tankers now remaining are in an entirely different class of service from British tankers, former being an integral part of the oil refining business in this country and in fact nothing more than floating pipe lines in conveying necessary supply crude oil to different refineries. First, obviously maximum quantity must be supplied from here as this is shortest voyage even though this course will necessitate closing for refineries. Second, notwithstanding American tankers having from time to time been assigned British service, monthly quantities fuel oil lifted from United States have decreased. Third, have laid before Sir Frederick Black and are mailing you detailed plans for redistribution certain British tankers providing. A, as British tank ships arrive from east and discharge United Kingdom or French ports they shall be sent United States to load for Italy, proceeding thence to Borneo via Suez Canal. B, two British tank ships moving residue from Benzine and one serving China Japan, now loading east for United Kingdom and then put in trans-Atlantic service. Four, this redistribution would enable you to transport from United States four hundred and five thousand tons per month out of requirements of four hundred twenty three thousand one hundred, this without shipment in double bottom cargo boats which should, however, continue in steamers loading measurement cargo. Five, FI you will put this plan immediately into effect in its entirety then until its full effect is obtained we will arrange for additional American tankers aggregating about forty thousand tons dead weight to load within the next six weeks. This can only be done by sacrificing war and related essential industries here. For this reason can only offer this tonnage for one voyage and must ask that plan for redistribution British tankers be accepted before dispatching these additional American tankers. Must also ask that following be agreed. A, In view of situation other countries, we to assign all American tankers voyage by voyage according to degree urgency which would necessitate British,France,Italy inform us now and monthly hereafter stock on hand and required of each grade petroleum. We can get records of shipments here. B, In consideration sight standard oil New York, British steamers present operating circular tour being deiverted Italian trade as proposed clause “A” thus subjecting them most danger war risk for benefit Allied Governments at same time disastrously affecting eastern trade Standard Oil New York they be compensated as feasible for double sacrifice by British Government releasing necessary tonnage transport three hundred fifty thousand barrels each high grade oil, quality corresponding American Petrolite oil from Anglo-Persia to West India and Burmah Oil Company for east coast India respectively. Also if obtainable three hundred thousand barrels for Indo-China Honkong as required of high grade Sumatra oil from Singapore. British Government to arrange purchase these oils f. o. b. base point Abadanrangoon from British Company concerned at prevailing New York f. o. b. price for Petrolite. Freight rate not to exceed British blue book rate whether carried these or other vessels. Signed Bainbridge Colby, Shipping Board. 19007.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Foley was a maritime shipping experts who had previously served on the diplomatic mission to Europe led by Col. Edward House, one of President Woodrow Wilson’s closest advisers.