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Strategic Sealift

The Mission

MARAD secures America's maritime interests through a series of programs that use government and commercial vessels to provide timely and scalable sealift capablities in times of national emergency and to meet Department of Defense (DoD) strategic sealift needs during war.

A Fleet at the Ready

At the forefront of MARAD's strategic sealift operations is the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), approximately 100 government-owned vessels waiting in reserve to provide additional domestic or international logistic support, typically cargo and tanker ships.

The Ready Reserve Force (RRF), a subset of the NDRF, is comprised of 46 vessels available for additional "surge" shipping or rapid deployment of U.S. military forces to support the Department of Defense's U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM).

The NDRF and RRF are managed and maintained by the Office of Ship Operations, and operate with appropriations from the U.S. Navy’s National Defense Sealift Fund in accordance with a 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between the Maritime Administration and USTRANSCOM.

Emergency Coordination

MARAD also develops and maintains plans to carry out national and international transportation support for military mobilization during national emergencies or Congressionally-declared war, managed by the Office of Emergency Preparedness & Response (EPR), who also maintains emergency resource evaluation data and operates MARAD's emergency operations and telecommunications centers.

Ensuring Resources

To ensure the availability of U.S.-managed vessels that can sustain a robust U.S. intermodal system and U.S. military operations abroad in an emergency, MARAD administers the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA). The Office of Sealift Support manages both programs, as well as the transfer of U.S.-flagged ships to foreign interests and programs to recognize U.S. Merchant Mariners who have made contributions to support our nation during national conflicts.

Ship Disposal

Every merchant ship, no matter its role or importance, reaches the end of its effectiveness or economic viability, and thus its life in service to the U.S. Government. One of MARAD's key functions, administered by the Office of Ship Disposal, is to manage the environmentally-sound disposal of these non-retention NDRF vessels, accomplished through dismantlement/recycling, artificial reefing, sale for recycle and reuse, deep-sinking in conjunction with DoD at-sea training exercises, or donation to qualified non-profit organizations. Ship disposal programs also include special disposal activities, such as management and decommissioning activities for the Nuclear Ship Savannah.

Industry Advice

The Associate Administrator for the Office of Strategic Sealift, who reports directly to the Maritime Administrator, also serves as the Chair of Transportation Group (Ocean Shipping) committee, with the Office of Sealift Operations & Emergency Response serving as Secretariat. TG(OS) reports directly to the Civil Emergency Planning Committee and, when necessary, to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). TG(OS) meets several times annually, both in its entirety and in representative working group sessions, using two formats:

  • NATO only -- only the current 28 NATO members attend
  • Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) -- NATO member nations plus national representatives from EAPC attend. Note: EAPC Nations participate in TG(OS) work, but are not involved in the decision-making process. 

Questions?

For general questions, see Frequently-Asked Questions. For questions about a specific program, visit its program page or managing office.

Last updated: Wednesday, June 17, 2020