WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 150 SEAPOWER ALMANAC 2015
The Maritime Administration’s (MARAD’s) mission is “to foster,
promote and develop the merchant maritime industry of the United States” in
order to meet the economic, environmental and security needs of the nation —
including infrastructure, industry and
labor. The agency also seeks to ensure
that the United States maintains adequate
shipbuilding and repair services, efficient
ports, effective intermodal water and land
connections and transportation routes,
and sufficient reserve shipping capacity
for use in time of national emergency.
The agency is the principal advocate
for waterborne transportation systems
and the federal programs supporting
them within the Department of Transportation. Changing demographics,
trade patterns, economic growth and
consumer demand are straining the U.S.
transportation infrastructure, intensifying congestion and increasing trans-portation-related pollutants. Expansion
of waterborne services to accommodate
freight growth, relieve congestion and
improve air quality along highways, and
greater integration of waterborne shipping into the overall transportation system, is an agency priority.
MARAD has both the regulatory and
promotional responsibility to ensure a
U.S.-flag merchant service that provides
logistical support of the military in times
of war or other crisis. Given the challenges
of sustaining a U.S.-flag fleet in international trade in the current world market,
MARAD is continuing to look to a combined effort of industry and government to
make the U.S.-flag operation more competitive in the global market.
Shipping provides a vital link for
mobilizing U.S. armed forces for military
contingencies and supporting emergency
response. Auxiliary sealift provided by
the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine has
played a vital role in American successes
in wars and international crises. Re-
cently, MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force
vessels supported U.S. armed forces dur-
ing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq,
provided humanitarian aid during
Superstorm Sandy in Northeast United
States, were a key part of the U.S. contri-
bution to the international mission to
destroy Syrian chemical weapons and
supported humanitarian efforts against
the Ebola virus in West Africa.
MARAD provides the programs for
the integration of civilian support for
military requirements. Many of these
programs provide not only a planning
aspect, but a platform for discussion
with the military on its priorities.
Maritime Security Program
Sealift Agreement (VISA)
The MSP and VISA programs make commercial ships and intermodal sealift
capacity available to the U.S. military.
These programs are designed primarily
for sustainment sealift and maintaining
sealift capacity when the initial surge
period has passed.
VISA includes nearly all of the U.S.-flag oceangoing cargo fleet. VISA participants commit specific vessel capacity,
intermodal equipment and management
services to the Department of Defense
(DoD). The VISA program is used to preplan the availability of militarily useful
commercial vessels in times of emergency. In return for their capacity commitments, VISA participants receive priority consideration for the award of
peacetime cargo. MSP-generated capacity is a significant component of VISA.
MSP participants are required to
enroll 100 percent of their MSP capacity
and a corresponding level of intermodal
resources and services in the VISA pro-
gram. These two interlocking programs
serve to maintain a fleet of active, com-
mercially viable, militarily useful, pri-
vately owned U.S.-flag vessels to meet
national defense and other security
requirements while maintaining a pres-
ence in international commercial ship-
ping. The MSP is responsible for retain-
ing approximately 2,400 U.S. citizen
During 2014, MARAD maintained
the enrollment of 60 ships in the MSP.
The current fleet includes 30 container
ships, seven geared container ships, 17
roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) vessels, four
heavy-lift ships and two product tankers.
As of Oct. 1, 2014, a total of 55 shipping companies participated in the VISA
Ready Reserve Force (RRF)
The RRF is the active component of
MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet
(NDRF). The RRF provides vessels for
surge and sustainment sealift capability to
the DoD. MARAD maintains its RRF ships
in a Reduced Operational Status (ROS).
An ROS- 5 vessel must be ready to be
underway within five days, while an
ROS- 10 ship must be underway within
10 days. Nearly all of the RRF fleet is in
ROS- 5 status. The ships are crewed with
10 Merchant Mariners who perform pre-
ventative and routine maintenance and
receive training appropriate to DoD mis-
sions. More than 390 highly skilled
Merchant Mariners comprise the crews.
Today, the RRF comprises 46 vessels
of the following types: 35 RO/RO ships,
six auxiliary crane ships, two heavy-lift
ships, two aviation repair ships and one
Offshore Petroleum Discharge System
ROS vessels are layberthed at commercial and government outports located
throughout the continental United
States, close to their designated load-ports for faster cargo deployment.
NDRF vessels are made available to the
U.S. military and federal, state and local