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Merchant Ships (Mails)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction felt by crews of requisitioned ships at the poor arrangements for the delivery of their mails; and whether he will cause an inquiry to be made into the circumstances, with a view to improvement?

Under war-time conditions, British merchant ships fall into two classes (a) those employed on Government non-commercial service, and (b) those employed on ordinary commercial service. In order to preserve secrecy as to the movements of ships, correspondence intended for merchant ships on Government non-commercial service has to be addressed "c/o G.P.O., London, E.C.I": it is then forwarded by the Post Office to locations furnished by the Ministry of War Transport. For the same reason, correspondence intended for ships on ordinary commercial service has to be addressed to the care of the owners or the owners' agents in the United Kingdom; and special arrangements have been made with them by the Post Office for the correspondence to be redirected, without any outward indication of the names of the ships concerned, to agents in ports at which the ships are expected to call.Delays to ships' mails are in the main due to protracted voyages and the consequent difficulty of forecasting where mails can connect with ships. It often happens that ships have to be unexpectedly diverted to ports other than those anticipated at the time of despatch. Moreover, the ships conveying the mails suffer from the same liability to delay or diversion en route. When correspondence fails to connect with a ship, it is the responsibility of the appropriate authority or agent in the port to redirect the correspondence so that it may connect with the ship at some other port. The arrangements for the treatment of correspondence to both classes of merchant ships are under continuous review by the Post Office and the Ministry of War Transport, and every effort is made to improve them as circumstances permit. If my hon. Friend will be good enough to send me details of specific cases of complaints I shall be happy to look into them in concert with the Ministry of War Transport