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Maritime Administration Heritage Asset Transfer and Loan Program

As part of its mission to educate on the importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) has authority to loan and transfer government owned heritage asset to qualified organizations for education and public display.

Heritage Asset Loans

MARAD loans heritage assets to “qualified organizations,” such as non-profit groups, memorial/museum ships, and public bodies. To qualify for this program organizations must:

  • Be registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, or;
  • Be part of a state or local government, and;
  • Be open to the public, or can display artifacts in a publicly-accessible area, and;
  • Include an educational mission.

Organizations entering a loan agreement with the Maritime Administration must hold or acquire adequate insurance to cover damage or loss. The borrower is responsible for determining the insurance value of the artifact.

All MARAD property on exhibit shall include information that identifies MARAD as the owner of the heritage asset.

Loan terms are three years with an option for continued renewal. Loaned items must be on public display and maintained in good condition. Items must not be cleaned, conserved, or repaired without prior permission from MARAD. Heritage assets on loan may not be transferred, loaned, or sold to any other organization. Loan periods may be renewed, provided borrowers continue to perform the expected accountability and care.

As part of the loan renewal process, organizations must provide a condition report one month prior to the conclusion of the loan period. The report will include a detailed description of the artifact’s condition and a digital photograph of the artifact. Reports must be submitted via email to:

Organizations can arrange to collect artifacts in person or have them shipped. Shipping costs are the responsibility of the borrower, including all costs associated with returning the property to MARAD upon loan termination. If the loaned property is not collected in person, it must be insured by the borrowing organization prior to shipment.

Heritage Asset Transfers

It is the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD’s) preference to retain and preserve its heritage assets; however, there are instances in which certain material is considered excess. In those instances, MARAD makes those items available for transfer or donation to qualified organizations.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996, authorizes the transfer of property removed from obsolete National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) vessels to “qualified United States memorial ships.” Artifacts will generally be transferred to memorial ships that have a detailed exhibit plan and employ trained museum professionals.

Transferred artifacts become the property of the receiving memorial ship; however, certain use restrictions apply. Transferred items may not be sold, loaned, or transferred to any other organization or individual, even if the proceeds from such a sale would benefit the memorial ship. Additionally, transferred artifacts must be used on the memorial ship itself; they may not be exhibited in any shore-based museum or visitor center. Unused artifacts must be returned to MARAD, with the receiving memorial ship bearing all shipping costs.

MARAD also has the authority, under 40 USC § 527, to donate surplus property to a public body if it has no commercial value, or if the cost of continued care and handling exceeds the estimated proceeds from sale. MARAD will generally favor donations to museums and other educational institutions over other public bodies. Artifacts will generally only be donated to those public bodies that have a detailed exhibit plan and employ trained museum professionals.

How to Request a Heritage Asset

Organizations interested in borrowing or receiving heritage assets should e-mail the MARAD History Program, at:

Please include the following documents:

  • Proof of IRS 501(c) 3 non-profit status, or;
  • Documentation that identifies you as belonging to a state, or local government, and;
  • A description of your organization, including its goals and educational mission, and;
  • A formal loan request, to include:
    • The type of artifacts you would like to display, and;
    • An exhibit plan, which should include a description of the planned display, interpretation, and security arrangements, and;
    • A discussion of the public accessibility of the planned display, including hours and days of operation.

MARAD prefers to loan and transfer artifacts to organizations with a collections management plan and museum professionals on staff, but understands some organizations will not meet this standard. In these situations, MARAD works with organizations that plan to publicly display and interpret MARAD property on a case-by case basis.


For more information, please contact the Maritime Administration History Program at: or 202-366-8988.

Last updated: Thursday, October 8, 2020