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The service between Havre and New York has been regular during the past year, and our steamers have not suffered any serious loss. An average speed of 16.7 knots has been maintained. The receipts on this line for passengers and freight would have been larger had traffic not been checked during September and October by the appearance of cholera. At this time, to meet the onerous quarantine regulations of the United States, we changed the port of sailing from Havre to Cherbourg. This expensive operation was rapidly effected, and the service was kept up eight weeks. In spite of all our efforts, and the strictest economy in changing port, the expenses of this temporary transfer were considerable, and at the same time the receipts much smaller than last year.
The new regulations established by the United States in regard to the carrying of immigrants have given us much trouble in this branch of our service. We have been forced to exclude that class of immigrants sailing for New York under contract, and replace that class provisionally by a third-class passage, raising the price, but bettering the accommodations for this class. This measure was very successful and our receipts did not fall off.
As announced last year, we contracted to transport exhibitors and exhibits of France at the Chicago Exposition, which was carried out successfully, and the receipts (weekly) from Havre and New York were considerably in excess of those for the corresponding period last year.
Our lines to the West Indies, from which the first receipts were encouraging, suffered also from the outbreak of cholera, and above all from the quarantine regulations, which were exceedingly severe and were the result in the colonies of the cholera in Europe.
We call attention to the steady increase over our lines from Marseilles to Colon and Havre and Bordeaux to Haiti, showing that the needs of commerce have been well met, particularly to Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo.
During the year our steamers, La Navarre and possibly La Normandie, will make the passage to Havana and Mexico, and we hope will promptly obtain profitable business. The coasting service from St. Nazaire to New Haven and Liverpool, established chiefly to connect our lines to the Antilles with English ports, continues regularly, and the contract with the Orleans Railway has been lately renewed.
Our large freight boats on lines to Algiers and Oran, Havre, Dunkirk, and Algiers, Oran to Bordeaux and St. Nazaire, have been profitable, and show that the traffic via Gibraltar between Tunis, Algiers, and French Atlantic ports and La Manche is growing daily.
Both our small coasters and large freight boats in this traffic are helped by bounties under the act of January 30, 1892, to encourage the merchant marine.
We have established these lines of freight steamers to meet a competition at Gibraltar which was taking a large share of our Mediterranean trade. It is a more economical provision for commerce and aids our subsidized Algerine and Tunisian service.
During the commercial crisis we have by prudence reduced to the minimum the cost of our Mediterranean service in order to overcome conditions unfavorable to our company.
The renewal of mail contracts with Tunis and Algiers are under consideration, and we hope the conditions of the new contracts will be more advantageous to us.
Finally, the receipts for 1892 would have been larger than for 1891 if, as stated above, they had not been so largely affected by the advent of cholera, which in a few weeks caused a loss of 2,000,000 francs; but this dispensation of Providence affected all maritime companies as much as ours.
The following table indicates all passengers and merchandise transported during 1892, compared with 1891:
Thanks to the incessant precautions taken on our steamers we avoided the cholera epidemic without having the least accident to deplore. Our ships are furnished with the best disinfectants, and we have complied with the sanitary regulations of all ports visited.
The cost of food and supplies for steamers in 1891 was 5,098,000 francs; in 1892, 4,837,000 francs.
The minimum rate of speed imposed on mail vessels by law on our lines to New York, Antilles, and the Mediteranean has been exceeded by the average rate. New York, 16.70 against 15 knots obligatory; Antilles, 12.39 against 12 knots obligatory; Mediterranean, 12.72 against 10.48 knots obligatory.
During 1892 our shipyard at Penhoet has been engaged in the construction of La Navarre, which will be ready for service some time during the last half of the year. We have put new boilers in six of our steamers, and put triple expansion engines on the St. Augustin, thus increasing its speed and reducing the running expenses of the vessel. Only three steamers remain on which we must place new boilers to effect such a renovation of our fleet as will enable us to fulfill our Mediterranean postal contracts. Electric lights have been put on two steamers. We continue to supply all our agencies with the necessities for the best naval service for freight and passengers, and to equip our warehouses, shops, etc.. We put to the best use the sojourn of our vessels in ports to effect repairs without excessive expense.
Our steamship La Touraine gives excellent results, and in 1892 enabled us to secure the maximum of the premium for speed for which our postal contract provides. There was spent:
Coal, including transportation at all agencies..
Francs. 9,762,000 3, 243, 000
Francs. 10, 389, 000 3,575,000
Our fleet consists of 66 vessels, of 172,423 gross tons, developing 174,400-horse power, and of 271,190 tons displacement.
Our workmen in shipyards comprise 3,285 men, of whom 2,070 are employed at St. Nazaire (Penhoet), 580 at Marseilles, 560 at Havre, and 75 at Fort de France.
Rigorous control of agencies has enabled us to make great economies. The commission which passes upon the qualifications of all of our employés also distributes temporary or stated relief to our sick and retired.
As stated, the profits for the year were 7,115,559.84 francs, of which the greater part has been written off for depreciation. It is best not to diminish the depreciation fund, but to increase our reserves as far as possible at this time when our contracts with the Government for service to Algiers and Tunis are about to be renewed. For this reason the dividend is fixed as proposed, at 10 francs payable on July 1, in addition to 10 francs paid April 1.
We can not close this report without an approximate statement of results during the first half of the current year. From January 1 to June 30, 1892, our vessels traversed 1,209,989 miles; for the corresponding period of 1893 the distance traversed was 1,143,021, a reduction of 66,968 miles. The average receipts per mile for the first twenty-five weeks of 1892 were 26.65 francs, and for the corresponding period in 1893 they have been 27.88 francs, an increase of 1.18 francs per mile. Our purchases of coal for the current year have effected a positive saving of 1,190,000 francs.
For 1892 we propose a dividend of 20 francs, free of tax, on 80,000 shares of 500 francs each.
Statement of expenditures and receipts of
General expenses of administration:
Stamp taxes and tax on revenue (impôt sur revenu)..
Council of administration, salaries, fuel, contributions, lighting, and care of central office..
243, 192. 42
4, 046, 100. 21