GETTING OUR SHIPS IN MOTION AGAIN
We immediately undertook three simultaneous negotiations to get our ships in motion: first, with the British--to allow our ships to proceed directly to Rotterdam without calling at British ports; second, with the Germans--to assure no submarine attacks; and third, to open a route for our sixteen cargoes in British ports to proceed to Rotterdam. At that moment we had 120,000 tons on board ships in Britain and 68,000 tons of stocks in Britain and France, making a total of 188,000 tons of marooned supplies.
Four days after the declaration of unlimited submarine warfare, I instructed Mr. Poland, our Director in London, to seek the aid of our Ambassador Patrons in Europe in these negotiations. Ambassadors Page and Merry del Val presented our proposal of direct sailing to Rotterdam from neutral ports to the British Foreign Office on February 6, 1917. On February 9, Poland advised me that the British had approved, subject to guarantees of safety by the Germans. His cable was:
LONDON, 9 February 1917
HOOVER, RELIEF COMMISSION, NEW YORK
British Government has agreed that Commission ships in or outbound need not touch at United Kingdom ports, but for your confidential information must touch at British ports elsewhere such as Halifax or Bermuda or West African Coast. Merry del Val through Spanish Ambassador Berlin and our Rotterdam office through German Legation Hague and