Re: Italian merchant ships
Posted by: Axworthy
Date: January 26, 2010 08:12AM
Almost all Latin American peacetime international trade was carried on European ships. The war stopped the sailing of most continental European shipping and most British shipping became tied down with essential war work.
The Latin Americans needed ships of their own if their international trade wasn't to collapse completely. They couldn't buy many in good condition on the open market at reasonable prices because of the war and they couldn't build ocean-going vessels themselves. Their eyes therefore fell on the dozens of Axis and other (mostly Danish) ships interned in their ports.
They used an interpretation of the old Law of Angary to take over the vessels for the duration, in many cases in the days immediately following a similar US move in its own ports in late March 1941.
As most Latin American countries joined the Allies in later years, no German vessels were returned after the war. However, Italy changed sides in 1943 and so many of its vessels were later returned. All Danish vessels were returned post-war.