3 The fight over surrendered ships
As Poland and the Soviet Union had already been given their share of reparation tonnage, the remainder was to be distributed between USA, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Great Britain and South Africa.
The final allocation was to be settled by a conference in Brussels where all countries were to be present. To the Norwegian delegation, the shipowners Carl Høegh, Kristian Jebsen and Svend Foyn Bruun were appointed, in addition to senior civil servant Johs Dalstø from the Ministry of Trade and managing director Erling Mossige of Nortraship.
It was obvious that the basic information on the respective vessels was not satisfactory. A new list dated 2 March had seven fewer ships, divided into the following categories:
Out of this total Norway was entitled to a share of 10.14 per cent, corresponding to its war loss.
It was obvious that plenum negotiations on distribution of so many and diverse vessels would at best be a cumbersome and time-consuming affair. The four countries with the largest claims, USA, UK, the Netherlands and Norway, met consequently for a private pre-conference in London on 2-5 May. From Norway Carl Høegh, Erling Mossige and the economist Kaare Petersen took part. The four majors arrived at a common proposal.
The great allocation conference opened in Brussels on 7 May 1946. Despite the preparatory meeting in London it turned out to be a test of patience. Countries that represented less than 3 per cent of the total losses took up a lot of time. The reparations to Australia, Canada, Denmark and New Zealand were soon settled, and South Africa agreed to take part in the British quota. Other countries created a lot of problems “by posing quite unreasonable claims that led to endless discussions and innumerable compromise proposals” (according to the Norwegian minutes).
In the end Belgium and Yugoslavia were persuaded to accept the majors’ proposal, while Egypt and India declared themselves dissatisfied with the vessels allocated. France accepted the passenger liner Europa (1931) that no one else wanted. Belgium vied for the cargo liner Kamerun, while USA was interested in Palmyra, which also Norway wanted. “Great Britain showed great understanding”.
(Based on report dated 3 June 1946 from the Norwegian IARA delegasjon by Carsten Helgebye to the Foreign Ministry.)
The final outcome of the IARA allocation conference in Brussels was as follows:
|in gross tons|
It was also established that all vessels had to undergo formal prize condemnation prior to final allocation and issuing of Bills of Sale. For Norway the total gain was 42 vessels of 77,618 gross tons at a total value of about NOK 25 million.
In his report to the Minister of Trade dated 5 June 1946, Carl Høegh reflects on the Norwegian policy. The delegation had given priority to smaller vessels, preferably singledeckers suitable for short sea trading. They also shied away from the war-built Hansa-ships as these were built from inferior-quality Thomas steel and of which there were some 30 on the list. Preferable the Norwegians wanted ships built in the late 1930s. They also had to take a few smaller tankers, the Norwegian State Railways (Norges Statsbaner) wanted a collier, while the Ministry of Industry saw use in the small chlorine carrier Norden. The Navy was given temporary use of the old Lindenau from 1914.
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