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 transportation-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 mobi-
lizing U.S. armed forces for military contin-
gencies and supporting emergency re-
sponse. Auxiliary sealift provided by the
U.S.-flag Merchant Marine has played a
vital role in American successes in wars and
international crises. Recently, MARAD’s
Ready Reserve Force vessels supported U.S.
armed forces during conflicts in Afghani-
stan and Iraq, provided humanitarian aid
during Superstorm Sandy in the North-
eastern United States, were a key part of the
U.S. contribution to the international mis-
sion 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 mil-
itary requirements. Many of these pro-
grams 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.
Participants are required to enroll 100
percent of their MSP capacity and a corresponding level of intermodal resources and
services in the VISA program. These programs serve to maintain a fleet of active,
commercially viable, militarily useful, privately owned U.S.-flag vessels to meet
national defense and other security requirements while maintaining a presence
in international commercial shipping. The
MSP is responsible for retaining approximately 2,400 U.S. citizen mariners.
During fiscal 2015, MARAD maintained an enrollment of 60 ships in the
MSP before two vessels were withdrawn in
September 2015. MARAD expects that
these ships will be replaced soon. On Oct.
1, 2015, the MSP fleet had 58 ships, including 28 container ships, six geared container ships, 16 roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) vessels, six heavy-lift ships and two product
tankers. As of Oct. 1, 2015, a total of 58
shipping companies were participating in
the VISA program.
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. All
but one RRF ship is in ROS- 5 status. The
ships are crewed with 10 Merchant Mariners who perform preventative and routine maintenance and receive training
appropriate to DoD missions. 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 tanker in
ROS- 10 status. ROS vessels are layberthed
at commercial and government outports
located throughout the continental United
States, close to their designated loadports
for faster cargo deployment.
NDRF vessels are made available to the
U.S. military and federal, state and local
law enforcement personnel for training
purposes. They use the vessels for law-enforcement, security, drug-interdiction
and cargo-handling training exercises.