« AnteriorContinuar »
receipt by the carrier of the goods and it would seem that if it was only prima facie evidence that the banker who held a bill of lading which has been issued by an authorized agent of the carrier, without receipt of any goods—that the carrier could show that fact. In other words, it would detract from the obligation of the carrier as provided in section 22 of the Federal bills of lading act which, as I understand, covers bills of lading issued for shipments to foreign countries as well as interstate shipments.
I just leave that thought and would make the suggestion that if the committee thinks or feels that it would exempt the carrier in such a case, that there might possibly be added to subdivision (d) the words
Provided, that paragraph D shall not be construed to exempt the carrier from liability to the bona fide holder for value of a bill of lading, as provided by section 22 of the Federal bills of lading act.
That is about all I care to say, Mr. Chairman.
STATEMENT OF MR. HARRY CHAPIN PLUMMER ON BEHALF OF
THE NEW YORK BOARD OF TRADE AND TRANSPORTATION.
The CHAIRMAN. State your name and who you represent.
Mr. PLUMMER. Harry Chapin Plummer. I represent the New York Board of Trade and Transportation, 41 Park Row, New York City. Perhaps I should state that I make this statement on behalf of the chairman of the traific committee of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation, whose name is E. J. Tarof.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, the organization which I have the honor to represent, the New York Board of Trade and Transportation, comprises more than 700 hundred executives of major manufacturing and mercantile units of the metropolitan district, very many of them exporters and importers on a large scale, and includes the principal banks and trust companies, insurance companies, and the chief railway and American steamship lines serving the port, with a good representation of British navigation interests.
The traffic committee of the board, for which I am here to say these few words: is composed of principals and traffic heads of large corporate interests of many years experience in ocean and overseas trade. By the peculiar principle of government of our organization, the findings even of a body manifestly so competent to consider a question of the nature of the Hague rules, or Brussels rules, are required to be submitted to a regular plenary session of the Board of Trade. In the case of the earlier drafts of these rules, the action of our traffic committee in emphatically rejecting the rules and in unreservedly protesting Article VI, now incorporated, with contradictory, evasive, and beclouding changes, in section 6 of House bill 14166, was unanimously upheld and approved by the organization as a whole in regular meetings immediately precedent to the filing of a formal protest with the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries, under date of September 19, last.
Our traffic committee has had an opportunity to study both the unofficial translation of draft of the Brussels convention, as supplied by the maritime law committee of the International Law Association and the text of House bill 14166. I am instructed by the chairman of our traffic committee to register the most emphatic opposition to both the spirit and the letter of section 6 of the bill. This does not mean that our traffic committee by any means approves of the other features of the bill. Yesterday's and to-day's hearings before your honorable committee have pretty well demonstrated that the objections to the other errors, omissions or commissions, of the bill are in ably qualified hands; indeed, it is a toss up, so to say, whether they have suffered the most harm from the direct attacks of the opponents of the rules or the naive admissions of the rules' supporters.
With all the emphasis at its command, the traffic committee of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation respectfully urges upon the Committee of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries that, with its time-honored sense of democracy and fair play, it insist upon a postponement and ultimate amplification of the scope of this hearing, so that there may be effected a vastly wider representation of the manifold interests within these United States to be permanently affected by the provisions of this bill. The interval from February 2d, the date of introduction of the bill, and February 13 and 14, has been not at all sufficient for a marshaling of the diverse interests from one end to another of the land that will wish to voice their position, in one or the other way. The more remote interior centers and sections of the country and the Pacific Coast and Gulf port cities have had neither time nor opportunity for gathering together facts and figures and arguments, either to support or to oppose the measure. In substance, we have not had the benefit of any official report from the American delegates who attended the conference at London and Brussels in October. We have been supplied with a copy of the so-called unofficial draft of the international
convention as printed in London, purporting to be the amendments made and approved by the diplomatic conference held at Brussels in October, which, by comparison with House bill 14166, shows that the action of the Brussels conference has been transferred more or less bodily into this bill.
The bill purports to enact into law the decisions of this foreign conference. Some amendments have been made that really admittedly would be of value provided that section 6 of the act, which is article 6 of the amended Hague rules, did not exist. But this, as it exists, permits the making of contracts and agreements in any terms which may be agreeable to the carrier and the shipper, as to any particular goods. The act does not attempt to define what are particular goods and it remains with the carrier and the shipper to themselves determine what are particular goods that warrant them in making any special agreement that they may see fit. The proviso at the end of the section does not help out that situation in the least, because, while it is intended to, it is left entirely to the carrier and the shipper to determine what are such conditions as reasonably to justify the making of a special agreement. There is no body, no court, no board, no commission, of any kind to which this is to be referred, which shall have the say or determination as to what are particular goods with reference to which special agreements may be made.
Then the first proviso in section 6 that in this case no bill of lading shall be issued, but shall be covered by an agreement and that that document shall not be negotiable, is not of any help, because the big shippers, who would be looking for special agreements and special arrangements of advantage, of preferential advantage, to themselves, except as to ordinary shipments of such commodities as grain and cotton, are able to finance their shipments themselves and they care nothing about the negotiability of that bill of lading and receipt. It leaves it open, so that a great majority of those people can do their own financing of their transactions, and the negotiability of their bill of lading, receipt, or other document is of no consequence to them whatso
The result is that this act, as proposed, is in the interest exclusively of the world's shippers of unlimited resources, because they handle their business under the conditions which are imposed here: while the little fellow may not do so and must depend upon the so-called uniform bill of lading. The fundamental object of this legislation, from the shipper's point of view, is to get his goods carried at reasonable cost with the absolute assurance that they will be delivered to the consignee or that the consignee or the shipper will recover the value of those goods which are lost or stolen under all ordinary conditions. There are certain liabilities which the carrier can not be asked to assume. These, and many more than should be given them in the way of immunities, are accorded them under this code, as prescribed by the Brussels rules.
We firmly believe that if we should forget the Brussels rules entirely and put them out of consideration and go back to the old principle that a carrier is responsible to the shipper or the consignee for the goods, the custody of which he assumes, we would solve the problem. We would give the carrier the right to charge rates upon a scale commensurate with the adequate safeguarding of goods while in his custody. The carrier would then get more money out of his business and the shipper would be a satisfied man, as would also be the consignee, the underwriter, and the banker. An immediate effect of this would be lower insurance rates and the cessation of thefts and pilferage. In short, the increased overhead thus allowed the carrier would be a guarantee of safety in transit.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the traffic committee of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation has asked me to protest the element of secrecy and mystery which has entered into the consideration of these rules since they became subject to diplomatic parleys abroad. The banks, the insurance companies, the carriers, the shippers, the consumers, the tax payers-indeed, the public at large—in these United States have a right to know just what influences lie behind the promulgation of these rules as a bill of lading codification under international convention. We have had some unfortunate and extremely costly experiences with secret diplomacy in world politics of late years. Let us not now, Mr. Chairman, subject to the dark labyrinth of influences in Europe, that have arrested civilization for the last nine years, an instrument so vital and so fundamental to world commerce and world finance as the ocean bill of lading.
The organization for which I am authorized to speak earnestly desires to see the consummation of a standard, uniform, ocean bill of lading. It respectfully submits that the Brussels rules, as embodied in H. R. 14166 and as contradicted and nullified by section 6, make the released bill of lading of recent years seem, by comparison, to be the acme of consistency, and again, by comparison, to afford the carrier, banker, underwriter, and shipper relative safety.
That is all I have to say, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Does anyone desire to ask any questions?
Mr. CAMPBELL. What do you mean when you say you give the carrier the right of greater freights—I do not remember just the phrase you used?
Mr. PLUMMER. That means, Mr. Campbell, that our organization feels that it would be better to grant to the carrier the right and the opportunity for increased freight rates, whereby, with the increased overhead, they could better safeguard the goods within their custody.
Mr. CAMPBELL. Don't you think the rates are regulated by competition?
Mr. PLUMMER. Exactly. Our organization feels that this condition that is brought about by The Hague rules or Brussels rules is one that is not helped by such a codification as has been proposed at Brussels.
Mr. Bland. You feel you can allow greater compensation if you get greater protection in carrier's
liability? Mr. PLUMMER. Exactly; yes, sir.
Mr. CAMPBELL. If the British ship offered a cheaper rate than the American ship, you would still ship by the British or Norwegian ship as against the American if she underquoted the American ship, would you not?
Mr. PLUMMER. That would be hardly a just position to attribute to our board, Mr. Campbell, because we stand very squarely committed to American ships.
Mr. CAMPBELL. Will you ship on the American ship at higher rates than offered by the foreign ship, or will you ship on the foreign ship if it offers lower rates than the American ship?
Mr. PLUMMER. With such a convention as has been proposed here our people feel , higher rates will be imposed on shipping everywhere. Those will be adjusted by competition.
Mr. BEECHER. The carrier to-day is at perfect liberty to assume all of the risks and to charge a rate of freight commensurate with the risks thus assumed, is he not?
Mr. PLUMMER. It would seem so.
Mr. BEECHER. Therefore the plan which you suggest is one which needs no legislation?
Mr. PLUMMER. It would seem jo.
Mr. BEECHER. But unfortunately the carrier can not do it, because of world competitive conditions; is that not true?
Mr. PLUMMER. I would say that this convention does not give the carrier any opportunity to adjust his rates; that a rate adjustment will not result from this convention.
Mr. BEECHER. This does not affect his rates at all, and I reiterate my answer to your proposition that the reason the carrier can not carry out your plan of an unlimited liability and increased rates is not because of a lack of legislation, but because world conditions of competition prevent his doing so. Is not that true?
Mr. PLUMMER. And this Brussels convention will enable him to do so; is that the idea?
Mr. BEECHER. I am asking you; I am trying to find out your idea. I am not in any way bringing up the Brussels convention; I am not suggesting that that has any application to your remarks at all; I am only trying to suggest that it was not a lack of legislation but it is world competitive conditions which prevent the carrier from carrying out the plan you suggest, and the only legislation, therefore, which would be helpful to carry out your idea would be one of eliminating world competitiona proviso that the law of supply and demand were repealed, as it were.
Mr. PLUMMER. In the first place, we do not make the proposition; we merely suggested this proposition of the Brussels rules do not go through. We are not offering another proposition.
Mr. BEECHER. Your criticism is purely destructive and you offer no constructive suggestions whatever?
Mr. PLUMMER. We offer this constructive suggestion that shipping and shipping interests and shippers get together on a much larger scale than they have done heretofore in this country, on behalf of the shipping interests and the shippers in this country and discuss the question very thoroughly before committing ourselves to anything. Mr. BEECHER. Are you satisfied with the existing state of law? Mr. PLUMMER. Certainly not. Mr. BEECHER. You think that some legislation should be passed? Mr. PLUMMER. Assuredly,
Mr. BEECHER. But you have no suggestion as to what it should bę, except you are opposed to what the 24 maritime nations have agreed upon?
Mr. PLUMMER. We are opposed to the convention as framed in Brussels.
Mr. BEECHER. You are technically correct. My statement should have been the representatives of the 24 nations.
Mr. BLAND. Was it not stated here the other day, or this morning, that the representatives of the British Government, or some organization in Great Britain, was already making modifications?
Mr. HEINEMANN. That was with respect to the 1921 rules.
Mr. BLAND. You think the committee might investigate, Mr. Plummer, as to whether they could not fix a liability upon carriers bringing goods into America and carrying goods from America so as to make these carriers liable just as the domestic carriers are liable?
Mr. PLUMMER. Exactly. And, in particular, our people ask that this hearing be lengthened and amplified so as to bring about discussions from every point of view, with every possible interest represented. That is our main thought. It is not one of destruction, except so far as the discrimination caused by section 6 of your bill. To that, they are unqualifiedly opposed.
Mr. CHINDBLOM. Your principal point, then, is that further opportunity for a hearing on this matter should be afforded? Mr. PLUMMER. Assuredly.
Mr. CHINDBLOM. Have you in mind any people who want to be heard on it, who are not here to-day?
Mr. PLUMMER. There has been a lapse of about 11 days between the publication of this bill, or the introduction of this bill, and this present hearing. That has not given the people on the Pacific coast, the people in the Gulf States, or in the interior, an opportunity to be fully heard. We feel, in fact we know from correspondence throughout the country, that there are a great many more interests who would like to be heard than it is possible to hear at this time.
Mr. CHINDBLOM. I suggest that you tell them to advise the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. I will suggest that there will be no action taken at the present session of Congress; it will go over until December and will have to be reintroduced at that time. This is simply to draw out information.
Mr. PLUMMER. I understand.
The CHAIRMAN. Because no action can be taken at this session. It would take the action of both the Senate and the House and the Senate is already blocked up with business now. Our calendar is pretty near clear, but there is no use for our getting too much excited at present, because we could not get anywhere if we should pass this bill.
Mr. BLAND. Possibly Mr. La Follette would like to have this bill come on in the Senate.
The CHAIRMAN. Undoubtedly. He is not alone in that, probably, but unfortunately he is a leader over there. But this bill will not go over to the Senate at this session, so he will not get a chance to block this.
Mr. Quinn. You are of the opinion that our shippers and ship-owners should have a little
family conference before they went into this Brussels convention? Mr. PLUMMER. That is the position of our people in New York, yes, sir-not only that there should have been this family conference, but a very general conference as between the shippers and all other interests before any legislation is framed or any convention is framed.
Mr. BEECHER. Did not the Shipping Board attempt to have that family conference you referred to, at this meeting in September, before the European conference was held?
Mr. PLUMMER. They did; I remember the conference.
Mr. BEECHER. I thought we had a very successful family party at that time Everybody had an opportunity to be heard, including your association. And I recall (and perhaps you will correct me if I am wrong) that your objection to this same Article VI was then considered and I asked your association to kindly frame any provision which would meet the objections which you had raised to it, so that we could consider that abroad and endeavor to meet your views. Was that ever done?
Mr. PLUMMER. It was, and communicated to the committee.
Mr. PLUMMER. I do not recall whether a communication was addressed specifically to the Shipping Board, but there was to this committee.
Mr. BEECH R. Then you never gave the delegates of the United States abroad any opportunity to meet your views?
Mr. PLUMMER. I can not say that we did not; I do not personally recall that.
STATEMENT OF MR. CARY E. QUINN, WASHINGTON COUNCIL,
AMERICAN HARDWARE MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION. Mr. Quinn. I should like to say a word. I feel I should have said that word along with Mr. Campbell yesterday, because he expressed himself as not bitterly opposed to this bill; neither are we.
The CHAIRMAN. Give the stenographer your name and state who you represent,
Mr. QUINN. Cary E. Quinn; Washington Council American Hardware Manufacturers' Association.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that in this city?
Mr. Quinn. No; I merely represent the organization in Washington in some such matters as this. We are and always have been in favor of any move that will bring about a standardization in shipping documents and shipping as a whole. We are large shippers; I am unable to say, as Mr. Heinemann did, exactly how much we carry, but we carry all we can.
My organization feels, however, that it should like to have a little further time to consider exactly what these Hague rules are going to mean. I was sent down here to-day and yesterday largely to get information. We might have been guilty of pot having kept up with what was going on; possibly we have fallen into the habit that others have fallen into, of feeling that there are quite a few of these conventions being called to discuss sundry matters, usually in The Hague or somewhere else; but, as my understanding goes, so far as the present bill is concerned, we are not opposed to the principle of the bill, but we object only (and if I understand the sense of the hearing, from what has come up here, it is not in opposition to the intent of the committee), to the extent we would like to have certain portions of the bill made a little clearer with respect to the liability of the carriers and the responsibility of the carriers.
I might say here that my organization expects to prepare a brief in detail, so that I won't take up your time on that point now.
We should further like to be certain that this bill is not going to be enforced at any time unless it carries with it a rider that it will be contingent on acceptance by other nations, and I believe that, also, is not in opposition to the attitude of the committee. And I might say, to conclude my expression on the matter, that we stand, at the present time, opposed to any bill unless these things are done and, in all probability, when the bill comes up again, as I understand it probably will, at the next session, will be in favor of it, because I believe at that time it will carry those two changes.
That is all I have to say, gentlemen.
The CHAIRMAN. Does any one desire to ask the gentleman any questions? If not, is there any one else present who would like to be heard.
Mr. Haight. I would like to say a few words in reply to Mr. Heinemann.
FURTHER STATEMENT OF MR. CHARLES S. HAIGHT.
Mr. Haight. As I indicated at the outset of my argument, my interests are those of the International Chamber of Commerce, which is a little broader than a separate national organization; but I do not believe that those interests differ from the interests of the American chamber in any particular.
I would like to reply to some of the points made by Mr. Heinemann, with a view of getting a little more clearly, perhaps, before the committee, since his argument, the really substantial points which he raised.
He has made a strong argument that the Harter Act ought to apply before the goods are loaded and after they are discharged. The rules in terms as precise as the human tongue can frame them, it seems to me, are restricted to a certain period, they cover only from the time the goods are loaded on the ship until they are discharged from the ship. If they cover no other period, they can affect the rights or obligations in no other period; but if the perfectly obvious statement needs to be restated, by all means let us restate it; let us put at the beginning of the rules the words that they apply only to international transit and then definitely say that they do not apply to anything but international transit and that the law now governing before and after loading and discharge remains the same. When we mean a thing, we might as well say it seven times as not, if you desire to do so.
When the present rules are compared with the Harter Act the committee heard Mr. Heinemann this morning subject them to pretty stringent criticism, but he has been absolutely unable to point out any particular wherein the rules are less favorable