- Project Runeberg -  A practical guide for Russian consular officers and all persons having relations with Russia /
387

(1916) Author: Alfons Heyking - Tema: Russia
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P. XIII. A PLEA FOR CONSULAR CONVENTIONS. 3S7

prevents them carrying out their mission and work in a satisfactory
manner. Consular Officers are, as a matter of fact, in the tiansaction
of their public business, local officials. It is therefore not only desirable
but it stands to reason that their official character should be
recognised in all cases where they are approached officially.

In their jurisdiction over the seamen serving on board merchant
vessels of their nationality, Consular Officers in Great Britain do not
always find themselves at liberty to apply their rules and regulations.
It is a provision of international law which has been expressed in the
treaties of all civilised nations, that it is the Consul’s right and duty to
inquire into all differences and disputes between captains and their
crews so long as they relate to questions of the internal discipline of
the vessels. Only when the disorder is of a character to interfere
with the public peace or where another person, not a member of the
crew, is implicated in it, are the local authorities entitled to interfere.
This rule is not yet sufficiently recognised in Great Britain. There
have been cases in which magistrates in Great Britain have regarded
themselves as competent to interfere between captains of vessels of
foreign nationality and their crews in matters of discipline and wages.
It is difficult to understand how a British judicial functionary who is
ordinarily ignorant of the rules and regulations under which foreign
ships’ articles are signed can be competent to adjudicate on questions
which turn wholly on those rules and regulations. British Courts have
gone so far as to take upon themselves to decide in cases of disputes
between foreign sailors about wages and ship’s discipline that the
application of the foreign law is not in itself compulsory in Great
Britain. In one case of a dispute as to the payment of wages and of
other differences of a disciplinary nature on board a German vessel,
the Johannes Christoff, which was then lying in a British port,1 it was
decided that the foreign law should not be applied if the Court were of
opinion that it did not correspond with the rules of British justice.
In this way British Law Courts have regarded themselves not only
competent to settle disputes which, according to international law,
are ordinarily exempt from territorial jurisdiction, but even at liberty,
in such cases, to decide whether the laws of a foreign country concerned
should be applied as being in accordance with justice and, if they think
that is not the case, to correct them in accordance with their own
views. In face of this rather extraordinary mode of procedure, it is
fair to mention, in order to do justice to the practical common sense
of Englishmen, that British authorities, as a rule, are aware of the fact
that the Consular Officer of the nationality to which the ship belongs
is more fit than are the local Law Courts to give judgment in disputes
about wages and discipline through his knowledge of the language and
of the maritime laws of his nation. Nevertheless, the theoretical
weakness of the legal position remains, and it may not be altogether
superfluous to point out that, according to the generally recognised
principle of international law, a contract, concluded in observance of
the laws of the land where it is made, is valid, not only in that land, but
everywhere else. It is therefore irrelevant whether the contracting

1 " Streitige Gerichtsbarkeit Fremder Konsuln in Zivilisirten Landern," in
the Journal Zeitschrift fiir Internationales Privat u>id Sirajrcclit, 18S1, Vol. I.

Consular
Jurisdiction
over
Seamen.

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