Dutch Pilot-steamer No 19

CourtPrize Court (Germany)
Docket NumberCase No. 167
Germany, Prize Court of Hamburg.
Case No. 167
Dutch Pilot-steamer Nr. 19.

Prize Law — Private Property — Liability to Capture — Private Property as Subject to Booty — Whether Liable to Capture otherwise than under Prize Law — Private Property on a Vessel Sailing under the Protection of an Enemy — Locality of Seizure — Whether Confined to High Seas.

The Facts.—In the evening of May 10, 1940, in the course of the last stages of the evacuation from Holland, 192 cases with the last remaining 937 gold bars of the Netherlands Bank were loaded at Rotterdam in the pilot-steamer Nr. 19, a State vessel placed under the command of a Dutch naval sub-lieutenant, in order to be conveyed to Hook of Holland and there to be handed over to a British destroyer. On its way to sea the pilot-boat ran on a mine in the New Waterway near Rotterdam, broke in two and sank. After the occupation of Rotterdam the mouth of the Meuse was blocked by the German authorities. A German port-admiral was appointed for Rotterdam. Traffic in the waterways in and near the town was drastically restricted, and all goods in the harbour area were to be declared. Some time later the Department for the maintenance of dikes, roads and canals began clearing away the wrecks in the river. The German town-major allowed the salvage of the gold by a Dutch company and its transfer to the Rotterdam office of the Netherlands Bank. Some of the gold bars appeared to be in the wreck, others lay on the bottom of the canal, near or under it. The wreck was dragged away, and some of the bars were brought up and transported to the treasury of the Bank. On July 6, 1940, the port-admiral, after consultation with the naval commander, went to the office of the Bank with a detachment of soldiers and officially declared that he seized as prize the 750 bars already salvaged, as well as the 187 still to be salved. That declaration was confirmed in writing on July 13, 1940. The Bank lodged a protest against this seizure on land. Prize proceedings were then instituted in Hamburg.

Held: that the gold bars were liable to condemnation as prize. The Court said: “Since May 10, 1940, Holland is enemy territory. … The Dutch pilot-boat was, consequently, an enemy ship and the gold cargo, being property of the Netherlands Bank, was enemy goods on an enemy ship (Article 11 of the Prisenordnung of 1939). The first point at issue is whether the case is to be judged according to the law of prize, or whether it comes within the provisions...

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