B-128623, MAY 3, 1957

B-128623: May 3, 1957

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THAT SUCH CASES WOULD OCCUR SO INFREQUENTLY THAT A RULING PERMITTING THE USE OF FOREIGN VESSELS "GENERALLY" WAS CONSIDERED PROPER. NO FACTS ARE PRESENTED. TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES ARE THE ROUND-THE WORLD CRUISES. THE REPORT SAYS THAT BOOKINGS FOR PASSENGER TRAVEL ON THESE VESSELS ARE UNCERTAIN BECAUSE THE AVAILABLE SPACE IS USUALLY SECURED PRIOR TO CANAL ZONE STOPS. ROUND-TRIP TICKETS CANNOT BE PURCHASED SINCE NO RETURN STOP IS OFFERED BY THIS LINE FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE CANAL ZONE. THE UNITED FRUIT LINE AND THE GRACE LINE ARE PRIMARILY DESIGNED FOR CARRYING CARGO AND THEIR SAILINGS ARE SCHEDULED ACCORDING TO CARGO COMMITMENTS. THEIR SCHEDULES ARE STATED TO BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE AND DEPEND UPON THE AVAILABILITY AND DESTINATION OF CARGO.

B-128623, MAY 3, 1957

TO MR. RALPH E. CASEY, AMERICAN MERCHANT MARINE INSTITUTE, INC.:

IN YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 7, 1956, YOU REQUESTED A MODIFICATION OF OUR DECISION OF SEPTEMBER 11, 1956, B-128623, 36 COMP. GEN. 207, WHICH CONCERNS THE UTILIZATION OF FOREIGN VESSELS BY CANAL ZONE EMPLOYEES FOR TRAVEL TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES.

THE REFERRED-TO DECISION HELD THAT PANAMA CANAL COMPANY AND CANAL ZONE EMPLOYEES "GENERALLY" MAY UTILIZE FOREIGN SHIPS WHEN TRAVELING FROM THE CANAL ZONE TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES FOR EITHER REPATRIATION OR HOME LEAVE, WITHOUT VIOLATING SECTION 901, MERCHANT MARINE ACT OF 1936, 46 U.S.C. 1241/A). WE REALIZED AT THE TIME OF THE DECISION THAT IN ANY PARTICULAR SITUATION THE FACTS COULD BE SUCH AS TO REQUIRE USE OF AN AMERICAN SHIP FOR THE TRAVEL IN QUESTION. THE FACTS INDICATED, HOWEVER, THAT SUCH CASES WOULD OCCUR SO INFREQUENTLY THAT A RULING PERMITTING THE USE OF FOREIGN VESSELS "GENERALLY" WAS CONSIDERED PROPER.

ON BEHALF OF THE INSTITUTE, YOU REQUEST THAT WE MODIFY THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF OUR DECISION TO PROVIDE FOR USE OF AMERICAN VESSELS IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 901 FOR THE TRAVEL INVOLVED. YOU SAY THAT THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES OPERATES PASSENGER VESSELS FROM THE CANAL ZONE TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE OF ONE SAILING AT INTERVALS OF SLIGHTLY LESS THAN TWO MONTHS APART AND THAT TWO OTHER NAMED STEAMSHIP COMPANIES OPERATE CARGO VESSELS, HAVING ACCOMMODATIONS FOR UP TO TWELVE PASSENGERS, ON REGULAR SAILING SCHEDULES FROM THE CANAL ZONE TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES. NO FACTS ARE PRESENTED, HOWEVER, SHOWING AN ABUSE OF THE GENERAL RULE SET FORTH IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF THE DECISION.

OUR TRANSPORTATION DIVISION REPORTS THAT THE ONLY SCHEDULED SAILINGS OF AMERICAN FLAG PASSENGER VESSELS FROM CRISTOBAL AND/OR BALBOA, CANAL ZONE, TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES ARE THE ROUND-THE WORLD CRUISES, REFERRED TO IN VOLUME I OF THE OFFICIAL STEAMSHIP AND AIRWAYS GUIDE OF JULY 1956, OFFERED BY THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES. THESE VESSELS LEAVE THE CANAL ZONE FOR SAN FRANCISCO AT APPROXIMATELY TWO-MONTH INTERVALS. THE REPORT SAYS THAT BOOKINGS FOR PASSENGER TRAVEL ON THESE VESSELS ARE UNCERTAIN BECAUSE THE AVAILABLE SPACE IS USUALLY SECURED PRIOR TO CANAL ZONE STOPS. ROUND-TRIP TICKETS CANNOT BE PURCHASED SINCE NO RETURN STOP IS OFFERED BY THIS LINE FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE CANAL ZONE.

THE VESSELS OF THE OTHER TWO STEAMSHIP COMPANIES MENTIONED IN YOUR LETTER, NAMELY, THE UNITED FRUIT LINE AND THE GRACE LINE ARE PRIMARILY DESIGNED FOR CARRYING CARGO AND THEIR SAILINGS ARE SCHEDULED ACCORDING TO CARGO COMMITMENTS. THEIR SCHEDULES ARE STATED TO BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE AND DEPEND UPON THE AVAILABILITY AND DESTINATION OF CARGO. MOREOVER, WE UNDERSTAND THAT SEVERAL STOPS EN ROUTE MAY BE MADE, AND, CONSEQUENTLY, THE LENGTH OF TIME TO BE CONSUMED BY A VOYAGE MAY NOT BE DETERMINED WITH ANY DEGREE OF CERTAINTY. ALSO SEE GENERALLY 46 U.S.C. 882. OUR OFFICE HAS CONSISTENTLY HELD THAT SECTION 901 OF THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT, 1396, DOES NOT REQUIRE THE USE OF AN AMERICAN VESSEL CLASSIFIED AS A FREIGHT VESSEL WITH ONLY LIMITED PASSENGER ACCOMMODATIONS. 15 COMP. GEN. 378 AND 33 COMP. GEN. 138.

IN RESPONSE TO A LETTER FROM US, GENERAL POTTER SAYS IN HIS LETTER OF APRIL 24, 1957, AS FOLLOWS:

"THIS AGENCY, OF COURSE, HAS NOT CONSTRUED DECISION B-128623 OF SEPTEMBER 11, 1956 AS A BLANKET AUTHORITY TO UTILIZE FOREIGN FLAG SHIPS FOR ALL SEA TRAVEL OF OUR EMPLOYEES TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES SOLELY BECAUSE AMERICAN FLAG PASSENGER SHIP SAILINGS ARE INFREQUENT. IF THERE ARE SAILINGS OF AMERICAN FLAG PASSENGER SHIPS ON WHICH SPACE IS AVAILABLE, AND IF EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE REQUESTED SEA TRANSPORTATION ARE BEING RETURNED AT THAT TIME, WE ENDEAVOR TO USE SUCH SHIPS.

"REGARDING THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE SAILINGS REFERRED TO BY YOU, WE HAVE NOT BEEN USING THESE SHIPS FOR SEVERAL REASONS. THE LOCAL AGENT OF AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES IS NOT ADVISED OF SPACE AVAILABLE UNTIL AFTER THE SHIP DEPARTS FROM NEW YORK OR ABOUT SIX DAYS PRIOR TO THE SAILING DATE FROM THE CANAL ZONE. TRAVEL ORDERS ARE ISSUED APPROXIMATELY 30 DAYS IN ADVANCE OF THE EMPLOYEES' SCHEDULED DEPARTURE DATES AND ARE BASED ON CONFIRMED SPACE AT THAT TIME. WE DO NOT BELIEVE WE SHOULD REQUIRE OUR EMPLOYEES TO RISK LOSING SPACE THAT CAN BE CONFIRMED 30 DAYS IN ADVANCE BECAUSE OF THE SOMEWHAT REMOTE CHANCE THAT SPACE MAY BE AVAILABLE ON AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE SHIP. ALSO, INSOFAR AS HOME LEAVE TRAVEL IS CONCERNED, IN MANY INSTANCES THE EXIGENCIES OF THE SERVICE REQUIRE OUR DIVISIONAL UNITS TO ADMINISTRATIVELY FIX A STRICT LEAVE SCHEDULE TO WHICH THE EMPLOYEES MUST ADHERE. IN SUCH CASES, IF THE EMPLOYEES ARE REQUIRED TO WAIT FOR POSSIBLE SPACE ON AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE SHIP, THEY MAY BE OBLIGED TO FOREGO THE HOME LEAVE TRAVEL DUE TO LACK OF ACCOMMODATIONS ON SUCH SHIPS AND THE NECESSITY OF TAKING LEAVE AS SCHEDULED. AS YOUR TRANSPORTATION DIVISION REPORTS, AND ACCORDING TO INFORMATION WE HAVE FROM THE LOCAL AGENTS, AVAILABLE SPACE IS USUALLY SECURED PRIOR TO CANAL ZONE STOPS. AS A MATTER OF FURTHER INFORMATION, MOST OF OUR WEST COAST TRAVELERS GO BY AIR AND EVEN IN THE FEW INSTANCES WHEN LIMITED SPACE IS AVAILABLE ON AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE SHIP, IT IS HIGHLY PROBABLE THAT WE WOULD HAVE NO EMPLOYEES SCHEDULED FOR SEA TRANSPORTATION TO THE WEST COAST AT THAT TIME.

"CONCERNING THE MATTER OF VARIANCES MENTIONED IN (A) ABOVE, THE EXTENT OF SUCH VARIANCES SEEMS TO BE WITH RESPECT TO THE FREQUENCY OF THE SAILINGS AND DIRECTNESS OF THE ROUTE. THE REPORT OF YOUR TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, WHICH YOU QUOTE, MENTIONS FIVE SAILINGS IN ABOUT EIGHT MONTHS. IT STATES THAT THE VESSELS ENGAGED IN THE CRUISE ARE THE SS PRESIDENT POLK AND THE SS PRESIDENT MONROE. THE REFERENCE IN MY LETTER OF JULY 9, 1956 TO SAILINGS AT "APPROXIMATELY THREE MONTH INTERVALS" WAS BASED ON INFORMATION FURNISHED BY PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY, LOCAL AGENTS OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE, WHICH INFORMATION WE BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE. AFTER RECEIVING YOUR LETTER, WE CHECKED WITH PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY REGARDING THE SAILINGS MENTIONED BY YOUR TRANSPORTATION DIVISION AND RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING DATA REGARDING SAILING DATES AND AVAILABILITY OF SPACE:

JULY 29, 1956 - SS PRESIDENT MONROE - NO SPACE

SEPTEMBER 23, 1956 - SS PRESIDENT POLK - 5 DOUBLE CABINS

NOVEMBER 17, 1956 - SS PRESIDENT MONROE - NO SPACE

JANUARY 20, 1957 - SS PRESIDENT HOOVER - NO SPACE (SEE BELOW)

(EX PANAMA LINE SS PANAMA)

MARCH 23, 1957 - SS PRESIDENT ARTHUR - TWO MALE BERTHS

(12 PASSENGER FREIGHTER)

"CERTAIN DIFFERENCES ARE NOTED BETWEEN THE INFORMATION YOU HAVE FROM YOUR TRANSPORTATION DIVISION AND THE INFORMATION WE HAVE OBTAINED FROM PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY. WHILE YOU REFER ONLY TO THE SS PRESIDENT POLK AND THE SS PRESIDENT MONROE AS ENGAGED IN THIS SERVICE, PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY STATES THE VESSEL OF JANUARY 20, 1957 WAS THE SS PRESIDENT HOOVER (EX PANAMA LINE SS PANAMA) WHICH WAS EN ROUTE TO THE WEST COAST TO ENTER THE PACIFIC SERVICE AND DID NOT ACCEPT PASSENGERS AT THE CANAL ZONE. PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY HAS NO RECORD OF A NOVEMBER 20, 1956 SAILING BUT REPORTS A SAILING OF THE SS PRESIDENT MONROE ON NOVEMBER 17, 1956. THEY ADVISE THAT THE VESSEL OF MARCH 23, 1957 WAS THE SS PRESIDENT ARTHUR, A FREIGHTER OF 12 PASSENGER CAPACITY. THUS, BASED ON THE INFORMATION FURNISHED BY PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY, DURING THE PERIOD JULY 29, 1956 TO MARCH 23, 1957, THERE WERE ONLY FOUR SAILINGS OF AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE PASSENGER SHIPS FROM THE CANAL ZONE AND SPACE WAS AVAILABLE ON ONLY ONE OF THE FOUR SHIPS.

"WITH REGARD TO THE REFERENCE OF "INDIRECT ROUTE" IN MY LETTER, THIS WAS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY GIVEN TO OUR TRANSPORTATION SECTION. AS PANAMA AGENCIES COMPANY IS LOCAL AGENT FOR BOTH THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE AND THE GRACE LINE, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THERE MAY HAVE BEEN A MUTUAL MISUNDERSTANDING. GRACE LINE SHIPS AVAILABLE TO THE WEST COAST AT PRESENT ARE 12-PASSENGER FREIGHTERS AND MAKE MANY STOPS EN ROUTE TAKING EIGHTEEN TO TWENTY DAYS FOR THE TRIP. HOWEVER, EVEN WITH RESPECT TO AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINE SHIPS, IT IS NOT BELIEVED THE TERM ,INDIRECT ROUTE" IS ENTIRELY ERRONEOUS FOR THE REASON THAT THE SHIPS GO TO SAN FRANCISCO WHILE THE DESTINATION OF MANY (PROBABLY THE MAJORITY) OF OUR EMPLOYEES WHO TRAVEL TO THE WEST COAST IS LOS ANGELES AND IN SOME CASES SEATTLE.

"IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR INQUIRY AS TO WHETHER OUR EMPLOYEES ARE REQUESTED TO OR VOLUNTARILY UTILIZE THE UNITED STATES FLAG FREIGHTERS, YOU ARE INFORMED THAT WHILE WE DO NOT REQUEST OUR EMPLOYEES TO TRAVEL ON UNITED STATES FLAG FREIGHTERS WE DO ADVISE THEM OF THE AVAILABILITY OF SUCH SHIPS AND THAT THEY MAY UTILIZE THEM IF THEY DESIRE.'

OUR OFFICE IS OF THE VIEW THAT THE PRESENT RECORD DOES NOT WARRANT A CHANGE IN THE HOLDING OF THE DECISION OF SEPTEMBER 11, 1956. WE TRUST, HOWEVER, THAT THE INFORMATION SET FORTH ABOVE CLARIFIES THE MATTER FOR YOU.

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