THE shipping problem is not just another name for the Battle of the Atlantic. Overloaded warehouses in Batavia and political crisis in Rio may result from torpedoings in the Atlantic; but the solution of the problems they create cannot wait on the defeat of the submarine. World shipping problems must be met within their own terms of reference and solved by the means at hand. British control of the Atlantic and a successful defense of the British Isles may depend on there being enough ships in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Oceans. The shipping problem is not one, it is many; it concerns not only embattled Britain and her American armor-bearer, but all countries that live by the purchase or sale of goods beyond the seas.
"It must be remembered," says Sir Arthur Salter, "that sea transport is almost as transferable as money itself."[i] From this premise it is clear that the British problem, and the problem of American aid to Britain, must be seen as a part of the world shipping situation. Every ship afloat and beyond Axis control is, in a sense, available for solving every wartime shipping problem, and almost every shipping problem is related to the British war effort. To secure war supplies from the United States, Britain must have transatlantic shipping; to guarantee the manufacture of those supplies in this country, there must be transpacific shipping. The war contribution of the Empire is communicated through ships. Ship transport for supplies may decide the attitude of borderline countries toward the war. The demands on world shipping as a whole and British and American shipping in particular arise from all of these needs.
No neat statistical etching of the British or world shipping position is possible. Some of the data are uncertain and behind the times; some are lacking. Yet a rough draft, showing at least the problem's dimensions, must be prepared as a preliminary to framing a solution.
The Germans claim to have sunk 11 million tons of
Loading, please wait...