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.
The MSP comprises 60 militarily useful vessels. During
fiscal 2016, the MSP fleet enrollment was down to 58 ships,
but MARAD expects two ships to be added back soon. On Oct.
1, 2016, the MSP fleet included 27 container ships, seven
geared container ships, 16 roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) vessels,
six heavy-lift ships and two product tankers. As of Oct. 1,
2016, a total of 56 shipping companies were participating in
the VISA program.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
MARAD is the U.S. representative to NATO’s Transport
Group (Ocean Shipping), also known as TG(OS). TG(OS) was
established by the North Atlantic Council in 1950, and provides
advice and guidance to the NATO Civil Emergency Planning
Committee (CEPC), Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers
Europe (SHAPE) and NATO military authorities on the use
and availability of commercial sealift. TG(OS) also maintains
voluntary relationships with 56 civilian maritime experts, and
advises NATO and national military authorities on threats to
international shipping, such as piracy.
Transport Group (Ocean Shipping)
MARAD’s associate administrator for Strategic Sealift serves
as the chair of TG(OS), and the Office of Sealift Operations and
Emergency Response provides the secretariat. TG(OS) meets
several times per year in both Plenary and Working Group sessions. Meetings are held in two formats: A NATO-only format
(only the current 29 NATO members in attendance); and an
EAPC format (NATO member nations plus national representatives from the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council). TG(OS)
reports directly to CEPC and, when necessary, to SHAPE. The
majority of the committee’s work is carried out by the TG(OS)
Working Group, which is a permanent subordinate committee.
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).
Today, the RRF is comprised of 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
Distribution System- (OPDS-) enabled tanker. ROS vessels
are layberthed at commercial and government ports located
throughout the continental United States, close to their desig-
nated loadports for faster cargo deployment.
All but one RRF vessel is in ROS- 5 status and must be ready
to tender to Military Sealift Command (MSC) within five days.
SS Petersburg, the OPDS tanker, is in ROS- 10 status. Ships in
ROS status are crewed by up to 10 Merchant Mariners who
perform preventative and routine maintenance and receive
training appropriate to DoD missions. More than 446 highly
skilled Merchant Mariners comprise the ROS crews of the RRF.
War Risk Insurance
War risk insurance is critical to ensure that commercial sea
lanes remain open during a large-scale conflict. The MARAD
administered war risk insurance program also may provide
a substantial cost savings to the DoD. There are two authorized war risk insurance programs that require presidential
authority, DoD and non-DoD, which may be used in a national
NDRF vessels are made available to the U.S. military
and federal, state and local law enforcement personnel for
training purposes. These organizations use the vessels for
law-enforcement, security, drug-interdiction and cargo-handling training exercises.
Foreign Transfer (U.S.-flag Vessels)
46 U.S.C. § 56101, requires that MARAD approve the transfer of U.S.-documented vessels that are 1,000 gross tons to
foreign ownership, flag and/or registry. Vessels of 3,000 gross
tons and more, and less than 25 years old, are subject to additional financial terms and conditions as contained in 46 CFR
Part 221. MARAD requires a formal application with supporting
documentation including an original Coast Guard-issued certificate of ownership. During fiscal 2015, MARAD approved 33
vessels for transfer.
Strategic ports are commercial ports that have been specifically evaluated and selected for their militarily useful
locations, facilities, equipment and services. The National
Port Readiness Network was established to facilitate coordination within the federal agencies that support deploying
forces through these ports in the event of a mobilization or
national defense contingency. This coordination is vital to
minimizing congestion and disruption of commercial activities while supporting the military’s surge and sustainment
Sixteen commercial ports have been identified as strategic
by the military and the Maritime Administration. These ports
are: Philadelphia; Hampton Roads Port Complex, Va.; Morehead
City and Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.;
Jacksonville, Fla.; Port Arthur, Beaumont and Corpus Christi,
Texas; San Diego, Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; Tacoma,
Wash.; Anchorage, Alaska; and Guam.