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can country, but it might be Panama itself, possibly because of internal dissertion.
Captain TORRENS. I believe this would be our area of greatest concern.
Senator ALLEN. How often have you been on ships that went through the canal ?
Captain TORRENS. I went through first when I was 7 months old, but I was not in command of anything.
Later than that, my service as a master has been primarily in the Atlantic and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. I have not transited the canal myself in command of a ship. However, in the council we have many who regularly transit the canal. Almost weekly I converse with masters whose regular trade route is through the canal with large ships.
Senator ALLEN. The statements you have given represent the views of the Council of American Master Mariners; is that right?
Captain TORRENS. Yes. They represent the executive committee acting through various chapters. We have taken a vote on this and my statement is representative of the feelings of the council.
Senator Allen. Have they passed a resolution?
Captain TORRENs. Yes. The executive committee passed a resolution approving the statement that I made today.
Senator ALLEN. How many members are there in the council ?
Captain TORRENT. Yes, they are all master mariners who have sailed or are presently sailing in the command of large oceangoing vessels.
Senator ALLEN. The canal is operated more or less now on a nonprofit basis, is it not, although the Panama Canal Company seeks to pay back the investment of the American taxpayers. The rates are not exorbitant are they? It is not a profitmaking organization; is that right?
Captain TORRENS. As I understand it, that is true and that is the way we feel it should be operated. As I understand it, the tolls we think should be subject to public review as to whether they meet the operating requirements of the canal and if raised under that procedure we presumably would have no objection.
Senator ALLEN. Is it your understanding that rates are going to be increased in order to give Panama some $70 to $100 million a year out of the revenues ?
Captain TORRENS. I would assume that if they operated even as efficiently or even more so than ourselves that they would still have to increase the rates in order to get the profit so that they could get their stipend.
Senator ALLEN. Do you think Panama is capable of operating the canal!
Captain TORRENS. Yes. Anyone having the proper expertise is capable of actually operating the canal. I do not take away from them their capability, as long as they have the responsibility to do it.
This is where I find a problem, I have trouble seeing that they would have the responsible government and would be responsible people who would realize how vital the canal is internationally and would not use it for their own political interests. In that case, I do not feel that they could operate it.
Senator ALLEN. As far as the direct technical operation of the canal, however, you think that they can do that!
Captain TORRENS. I think any particular job in the canal probably could be done as well, yes.
Senator ALLEN. What about pilots for the ships? Captain TORRENS. The pilots could also be changed to do an adequate job. Again, I get back to the responsibility. Who are they going to be responsible to? This is the area that I have great concern about. The highest trained man, if he is not responsible to a higher authority for doing a good job, is not going to do a good job.
Senator ALLEN. You think the instability of the government there is a real threat and danger!
Captain TORRENS. I feel I have to limit myself to my expertise. I really do not know how stable their government is, but there is nothing that leads me to believe that it is more stable than ours.
Senator ALLEN. I notice you call attention to the fact that under the treaty we would be precluded from negotiating with another country for another canal without the permission of Panama for the next 23 years. Do you think that is advisable to have a prohibition such as that?
Captain TORRENS. I think it is a very poor policy. I do not see how we could enter into any type of agreement which would tie our hands in such manner.
Senator ALLEN. Is there any admiralty law in Panama?
Captain TORRENS. I do not know what their admiralty procedures are in Panama.
Senator ALLEN. Do you think there will be a need in the reasonably foreseeable future for having a second canal?
Captain TORREN'S. Yes.
Senator ALLEN. Do you think in the next 23 years that we will have a need for it?
Captain TORRENS. Probably we could use another canal very shortly. The limitations of the Panama Canal are there. I feel that sooner or later steps should be taken to make a sea-level waterway of some type which would not be subject to the same type of problems that a lock canal is.
Senator ALLEN. Would you favor building another canal in Panama?
Captain TORRENS. I do not know where the best route would be. I would say that the geography should dictate it more. It should be one of the prime concerns. Also a major concern would be the stability of the government through whose territory it might happen to go.
Senator ALLEN. Do you anticipate that there will be a whole lot more traffic through the canal of oil from the Alaskan pipeline when that is being utilized to the fullest degree?
Captain TORRENS. I don't know the details of that but I have heard that there will be oil that will be traveling by tanker from the North Slope via the canal to the east coast or that the oil could be shuttled through there.
Senator ALLEN. Are some of the members of your Council masters on oil tankers?
Captain TORRENS. Oh, yes. Members of the Council represent a broad spectrum of all types of U.S. Merchant Marine ships, including tankers.
Senator ALLEN. Is any priority given to shipping of any nation at this time through the Panama Canal !
Captain TORRENS. As far as I know, there is not. I believe military ships have priority. Other than that my understanding is that ships are taken by the dispatcher and given a certain way in which to proceed. Certain vessels are only daylight ships. There are other considerations of that sort. So there are certain limitations whereby other ships and smaller ones might get priority on a day-to-day basis.
But as far as I know it is not discriminatory.
Senator Allen. Do you think the approval by the Senate of these treaties would be contrary to the best interests of the people of the United States and the shippers in particular?
Captain TORRENS. Yes, I do.
Senator ALLEN. It would take quite a few years to build another canal, I imagine. Giving up the only one that we have, certainly it would seem to me not to be a very good business venture on our part. What do you think?
Captain TORRENS. I agree, especially when you also tie your hands about building an alternate canal while you are waiting for this one to fall out of your hands.
EXTREME GOOD-NEIGHBOR POLICY
Senator ALLEN. It is laudable to be a good neighbor with the Central and South American countries, but do you feel that these treaties are carrying good neighborliness a little bit too far?
Captain TORRENS. I do not want to get into the politics of it because I do not feel that that is my area. But I would say that the responsible individuals in many other countries may not feel that we are doing them a good service by giving this canal away to Panama.
Senator ALLEN. I understand that that is the case. Many of the Latin American countries there don't want to see the American presence removed. The signing gala and all the ceremony and all the representatives from other nations that were drawn into the premature celebrations do not alter that fact. If you talk to them privately they might express other views with regard to the canal.
Captain TORRENS. My observations are that we seldom gain respect by giving things to people.
Senator ALLEN. Increased tolls, of course, would increase the ultimate price of the product which is being carried in American shipping; would it not?
Captain TORRENS. That is correct.
Senator ALLEN. Most of the shipping that goes through the canal is either headed for American ports or it comes from the American ports; is that correct?
Captain TORRENS. I believe this is true. However, I do not know the statistics.
Senator Allen. So any imposition of added tools would just add to inflation and add to the high price of products being transported; is that right?
Captain TORRENS. That is the way I understand it.
Senator ALLEN. Senator Paul Laxalt is here and he is interested in these issues. I would like to invite him to pose any questions he might wish to present.
Senator LAXALT. Thank you. I think my senior colleague has covered the areas well. Your responses have been helpful.
You say you have 1,000 members of your council?
Senator Laxalt. How many members are there nationally? Who are the members of the council?
Captain TORRENS. I would say there is no other organization of ships' masters. I would say that probably we represent three-quarters of them. There are approximately 25 percent who may not be active members in the council.
Senator LAXALT. Are these mariners active at the present time or retired or both?
Captain TORRENS. Both.
Captain TORRENS. The ones that we have today I would say about 50 percent are active and 50 percent are retired or have gone into some other line of work.
Senator LAXALT. Is there any division whatsoever in their sentiment toward the treaties or are they fairly unanimous ?
Captain TORRENS. I have found that in general they would have gone for a more adamant stand than my statement would indicate.
Senator LAXALT. What might that have been?
Captain TORRENS. There would have been maybe a stronger statement against signing the treaty.
My statement I felt would be subject to questioning and the main concern of the council—and the executive committee agreed with me—was that the statement would be the area in which we have expertise not as to whether the canal is or is not owned in perpetuity by the United States or the like. This matter was the subject of many arguments. Whether this would be of benefit to the South American people or the Panamanian people in general could be a big argument. Whether they are entitled to certain things or not-these are areas I could not go along with. But I think there are certain members on the council who would have said or would have had a stronger flag-waving type of approach than our statement given this morning. Our statement against the treaties is confined to our area of particular expertise.
Senator LAXALT. 'If I understand the gist of your testimony, No. 1, the use of the canal by the merchant marines is very significant and terribly important not only to the people whom you represent but also to the interests of this country.
Captain TORRENS. Yes.
Senator Laxalt. Your concern is not expressed so much in political terms—you indicate you don't know the political situation—but I gather that your concern is that we are trading a fairly stable situation for one that we don't know to be stable.
Captain TORRENS. Right.
Senator LAXALT. As far as the Panamanians themselves are concerned it is my understanding that there are a couple of hundred ship captains in there overall, not Panamanians, but overall; is that right? Only three of them are presently Panamanians; do you know that figure?
Captain TORRENS. I do know what the actual figure is. Pilots, do you mean?
Senator LAXALT. Yes.
Captain TORRENS. The pilots in the canal, as I understand it, are taken from tlfe U.S. merchant marines and qualified U.S. Coast Guard merchant marine officers who have served on American flagships. There may be some that are Panamanians in origin.
Senator LAXALT. As I understand, there are three or four at the present time.
Does this require a high level of expertise ?
Senator LAXALT. Over what period of time would it take to train someone who is totally unfamiliar with the process?
Captain TORRENS. I think it would take a considerable amount of time in training and ship handling, plus the apprenticeship which would be required for the particular waterway, which is the canal and entering the locks.
Again, I feel that I would not want to take it away from any individual as to what his capability would be. There may be many Panamanians who would be perfectly qualified to do this kind of work.
What I am saying, is that the responsibility that they would have toward their job and their responsibility that they would have toward running an efficient operation, is of concern to us.
Senator LAXALT. I gather in summary, that you find no compelling reason whatsoever as to why the U.S. Senate should ratify these treaties and you find many reasons why we shouldn't.
Captain TORRENS. That is correct.