S.S. "Wimbledon" case

Case of the S.S. "Wimbledon", Britain et al. v. Germany, (1923) PCIJ Series A01 is a judgment of the Permanent Court of International Justice, rendered on August 17th, 1923. The case primarily dealt with issues pertaining to attributes of sovereignty, treaty obligations qua internal law, and the jurisprudence related to international canals.


An English steamship, the "Wimbledon", was time-chartered by a French Company, Les Affréteurs réunis, which was based in Paris. According to the terms of the charter, the vessel had taken on board at Salonica 4,200 tons of munitions and artillery stores consigned to the Polish Naval Base at Danzig. On March 21, 1921, "Wimbledon" arrived at the Kiel Canal, but the Director of Canal Traffic refused permission to pass through by basing his refusal upon the neutrality orders issued by Germany in connection with the Russo-Polish war. The French Ambassador at Berlin requested the German government to withdraw the prohibition and to allow Wimbledon to pass through the Kiel Canal, in conformity with Article 380 of the Treaty of Versailles. The German government replied that it would not allow a vessel with a cargo of munitions and artillery stores consigned to the Polish Military Mission at Danzig, to pass through the canal, as the German Neutrality Orders prohibited the transit of cargoes of this kind destined for Poland or Russia, and Article 380 of the Treaty of Versailles was not an obstacle to the application of such orders to the Kiel Canal. The "Société des Affréteurs réunis" telegraphed to the captain of the S.S. "Wimbledon", ordering him to continue his voyage by the Danish Straits. The vessel weighed anchor on April 1 and, proceeding by Skagen, reached Danzig, its port of destination on April 6; it had been detained for eleven days, and had taken two extra days for its deviation.[1]

The British, French, Italian and Japanese governments brought the action that was heard from January 16, 1923 to August 17, 1923.

The Court had these members:

The court considered Articles 380 to 386 of the Treaty of Versailles and Articles 2 and 7 of the Hague Convention of 1907 .


The court first had to consider Poland’s application to intervene, which it allowed.[2]

It then considered the substantive issue in the case and found that Germany was perfectly free to regulate its neutrality in the war. However, it found that the canal had ceased to be an internal navigable waterway of Germany. Germany thus had a definite duty of allowing the passage of the “Wimbledon” through the Kiel Canal, and its neutrality did not oblige the prohibition of allowing the passage.

Judges Anzilotti, Huber and Schüking, dissented.


  1. Summaries of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders of the Permanent Court of International Justice, S.S. “Wimbledon”
  2. Permanent Court of International Justice, Case of the S.S. "Wimbledon"

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