The Sale of Japanese vessels by the Custodian of Enemy Property

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Let say that a foreign country comes to attack us in war. After a while, they are chased back to where they came from leaving a lot of stuff behind. Some of these were originally taken from the civilian population and some belonged to the enemy. So, to whom does this property belongs to?

That is when the Custodian of Enemy Property comes in. It is an institution that handles property claims created by war.

In ancient times, these properties were considered as war loot and belonged to the ‘winner’ of the war.

However, in the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 147, this became categorised as a war crime.

All over the world, there are many records of Custodians of Enemy Property being established after wars ending.

For instance in India, The Custodian for Enemy Property for India was established to manage Pakistani property taken in the Second Kashmir War (1965).

Meanwhile in North Borneo (present-day Sabah), The Custodian of Enemy Property Jesselton was left in-charge of ships left behind by the Japanese after World War II (WWII).

A notice was given out to the public on Jan 31, 1952, about seven years after the war had ended, opening up the tender to purchase these ship wrecks.

This was the notice put out by the Custodian of Enemy Property:

Sale of Wrecked Vessels

The Custodian of Enemy Property, Jesselton, North Borneo, under the provision of the Japanese Property, (Vesting) Order 1951 invites tender for the purchase of certain wrecked vessels formerly of Japanese ownership lying around the coast of North Borneo. Each or all of the following vessles are offered as they lie and where they lie:-

1.The Custodian accepts no responsibility for the correctness of any part of the above description. In particular the tonnages given must be taken as merely estimated indications. Intending purchaser should arrange for their own inspection and survey of the vessels as they lie.

2.The successful tenderer will be required to obtain the approval of the Marine Superintendent Labuan, North Borneo, for the intended procedure of dealing with any wreck. Wrecks may be demolished at site. But if it is intended to attempt to float the wrecks, prior permission must be obtained from the Marine Superintendent who will require to be given full particulars of the method to be employed and of the equipment to be used in order to ensure that proper and safe methods to accordance with good salvage practice are employed. And that when floated or being removed any wreck is not likely to become a danger to navigation.

3.As regards wreck No. 1. it shall be a condition of sale that the vessel shall be totally removed, or that if partially removed or that if partially removed there shall be at least six fathoms of water over the vessel and clear obstruction at spring tides.

4.Tenderers must undertake to remove or demolish wrecks not later than 12 moths from the date of this notice. Scrap metal exported from the colony will be liable to export duty.

5.The full purchase amount must be paid to the Custodian of Property, Jesselton by the successful tenderer within fourteen days of notification of acceptance of the tender.

6.Tenders should be forwarded in sealed covers marked “Tender of the Japanese Wrecks” and addressed to the Custodian of the Property, Jesselton, North Borneo and must reach his office not later than June 14, 1952.

7.The Custodian does not bind himself to accept the highest or any tender.

Custodian of Enemy Property

KajoMag did not find any information on who bought these Japanese wrecks after this notice was published. Do you have more information on The Custodian of Enemy Property in Borneo after WWII? Let us know in the comment box.

Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight.

She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science.

She is currently obsessed with silent vlogs during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to her obsession, she started her Youtube channel of slient vlogs.

Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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