Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

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mihu
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Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by mihu » 01 Apr 2020 16:04

During WW2, was the passage into and out of the Mediterranean via the Strait of Gibraltar open to neutral shipping, or did either side attempt to block this sea passage to anything other than friendly traffic?

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Apr 2020 06:04

Neutral ships were subject to inspection. Read up how the 'Naval Certification' system worked. The Brits escort select neutrals though on scheduled dates. The Spanish also had jurisdiction of a sort But what actions they too I don't know. The Axis navy posted submarines near, but the Brit ASW was very active, so they could not close the strait.

The Brits mined the strait, which meant everyone passing had to have a pilot aboard or a accurate chart of the passage & mine placement.

The Italians had surveyed the strait prewar, and discovered two powerful currents passing over & below each other in opposite directions. They used this knowledge to run submarines through the deep channel where mines could not be anchored. Sib commanders assigned to pass the strait had instruction in the navigation and rehearsed it before departing. German subs tried to run the strait without studying Italian methods and had significant losses from the mines and ASW patrols.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Urmel » 02 Apr 2020 07:21

The Kriegsmarime did not give a lot of credit to the Italian submarine force: https://rommelsriposte.com/2018/12/18/m ... mber-1941/
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by mihu » 02 Apr 2020 10:19

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
02 Apr 2020 06:04
Neutral ships were subject to inspection. Read up how the 'Naval Certification' system worked.
NaviCert is one of those things I know the gist of (neutral shipping being required to possess certified "passes" from the British admiralty or face boarding and seizure) but don't know specific details on as far as what parts of the world it applied to or what types of vessels it covered (e.g. was it only bulk carriers? what about fishing, research, or recreational vessels)?

Can you recommend any good sources on the system and how it was applied to neutrals?
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
02 Apr 2020 06:04
The Brits escort select neutrals though on scheduled dates. The Spanish also had jurisdiction of a sort But what actions they too I don't know. The Axis navy posted submarines near, but the Brit ASW was very active, so they could not close the strait.

The Brits mined the strait, which meant everyone passing had to have a pilot aboard or a accurate chart of the passage & mine placement.
Interesting. Yes, Spain was one of the countries I was thinking of when I posted this question. It would be interesting to know what sort of wartime measures they took in this region and whether they ever butted heads with the Brits over NaviCert or the mining of the Strait and its impacts on Spanish shipping through this channel.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Apr 2020 00:41

mihu wrote:
02 Apr 2020 10:19
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
02 Apr 2020 06:04
Neutral ships were subject to inspection. Read up how the 'Naval Certification' system worked.
NaviCert is one of those things I know the gist of (neutral shipping being required to possess certified "passes" from the British admiralty or face boarding and seizure) but don't know specific details on as far as what parts of the world it applied to or what types of vessels it covered (e.g. was it only bulk carriers? what about fishing, research, or recreational vessels)?
Primarily carriers. Comercial shipping companies applied for certification with British agents at the embassies and Consulates. In busy ports a separate office was set up. The applications included documents for the cargo, and statement of destination. The information was forward to the Admiralty in Britain. Brit representatives spot checked as many ships/cargos as they could. Undercover agents collected information leading to possible violations. In Latin America & other neutral ports Brit and German agents were fighting a war as well, which overlapped monitoring cargo shipping & procuring resources. Information on what cargo ships to watch for filtered down to the actual fleet elements on patrol.

At the other end British agents, overt and undercover monitored port traffic to spot non certified cargos & ships. Enforcement was mostly via economic sanctions. British and US banks dominated global commerce. The Axis had nothing to compete with. So, any commercial supplier on the British black list found it 'difficult' to obtain credit or even access their bank accounts. Commercial insurance was also problematic. The center for serious loss underwriting was in London, so blockade runners caused the rest of a companies ships to become uninsured. Only a few heavyweights like Standard Oil tried to buck the Nav Cert system after 1940. Legislation accompanying the DoW vs Germany, Japan ect ended that

Brit agents were as active in US ports as anywhere 1939-1941 & there were accusations Standard Oil owned tankers were refueling German submarines while anchored in the Canaries & others Spanish ports.
Can you recommend any good sources on the system and how it was applied to neutrals?
Not off my memory. I picked it up in fragments. The Wiki article probably has some sources. 'Trading with the Enemy' has some bits on Brit attempts to enforce the blockade in the US.
Interesting. Yes, Spain was one of the countries I was thinking of when I posted this question. It would be interesting to know what sort of wartime measures they took in this region and whether they ever butted heads with the Brits over NaviCert or the mining of the Strait and its impacts on Spanish shipping through this channel.
There was disagreement over details. Spain's leaders lost interest in seriously confronting Britain early on. They were making a lot of money selling to both sides. That would end if they seriously pissed off Britain. The Brits paid cash, and had the world to drawn on for goods Spain needed. The Germans had bad credit, lots of cheap brown coal and.. well lots of cheap brown coal.
Last edited by Carl Schwamberger on 03 Apr 2020 14:21, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Apr 2020 00:44

Urmel wrote:
02 Apr 2020 07:21
The Kriegsmarime did not give a lot of credit to the Italian submarine force: https://rommelsriposte.com/2018/12/18/m ... mber-1941/
Wish I had some in-depth references on the Italian vs German sub ops. I suspect the Germans lost some of their arrogance after they lost several subs trying to run the Gibraltar strait.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Ironmachine » 03 Apr 2020 09:33

Carl Schwamberger wrote:The Brits mined the strait, which meant everyone passing had to have a pilot aboard or a accurate chart of the passage & mine placement.

What was the extension of the British minefields? I have not looked at the matter, but Spain may have maintained its cross-Strait traffic by sailing close to the African coast, that was under Spanish control (Spanish Morocco).

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by mihu » 03 Apr 2020 10:01

@Carl Schwamberger Many thanks for your detailed reply. I think one of these days somebody needs to write a comprehensive book on NaviCert and how it applied to shipping during the war, it's certainly an interesting subject.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Apr 2020 14:16

Ironmachine wrote:
03 Apr 2020 09:33
Carl Schwamberger wrote:The Brits mined the strait, which meant everyone passing had to have a pilot aboard or a accurate chart of the passage & mine placement.

What was the extension of the British minefields? I have not looked at the matter, but Spain may have maintained its cross-Strait traffic by sailing close to the African coast, that was under Spanish control (Spanish Morocco).
Spain had most of its cross strait traffic certified like other neutrals. & the place was thick with British agents, so they did not have to resort much to tricks to transit the area. Have to take a close look at the navigation charts, the minefields, currents, and shoals. More important is the Brits were not above violating neutral waters if they thought it worth the cost. They also used the technique themselves in a effort to get a couple single ships to Malta. Keeping them close in to the Algerian & Tunisian coast.

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by John T » 04 Apr 2020 09:41

mihu wrote:
03 Apr 2020 10:01
@Carl Schwamberger Many thanks for your detailed reply. I think one of these days somebody needs to write a comprehensive book on NaviCert and how it applied to shipping during the war, it's certainly an interesting subject.
This is the official history written in 1954, so all from the British point of view.

https://archive.org/details/economicblo ... 6/mode/2up


And I quite fond of
"Neutrality and Navicerts : Britain, the United States, and Economic Warfare, 1939-1940"
By Matson

As it focused on 39-40 the Issues with the big Neutrals (at that time) USA and Italy it's interesting



Cheers
/John

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Re: Question: neutral shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Post by mihu » 04 Apr 2020 12:01

@John T Thank you, I'll give those a look.

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