Strategic Sealift and Fleet Support

America relies upon its merchant marine, ports, shipyards and maritime industries for both trade and defense, during peacetime and in war. U.S. strategic sealift needs and the logistics of national security require the ability for surge and sustainment shipping, which is met with a variety of active U.S.-flag merchant ships, commercial ships under long-term charter to the military and Ready Reserve Force vessels under private commercial management contracts crewed by citizen mariners. 

military sealift command

11-13-12-MLP1-Float-out-5105.jpgMLP-1 floating out of GD NASSCOThe Military Sealift Command (MSC) has responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all military services as well as for other government agencies. MSC has a workforce of more than 9,000 people worldwide, about 80 percent of whom serve at sea. More than half of MSC's workforce is made up of civil service mariners who are federal employees. The remainder includes commercial mariners, civil service personnel ashore and active-duty and reserve military members.  All MSC ships, unlike other U.S. Navy ships, are crewed by civilians, and some ships also have small military departments assigned to carry out communication and supply functions. MSC's worldwide operations are financed through two working capital funds.  The Navy Working Capital Fund is used by  MSC to support Navy fleet commanders and other Department of Defense entities. The Transportation Working Capital Fund is used to support sealift services. Military Sealift Command reports through three distinct and separate chains of command: 

  • To U.S. Fleet Forces Command for Navy transport matters;
  • To U.S. Transportation Command for defense transportation matters; and 
  • To the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition for procurement policy and oversight matters. 

For a list of vessels in the current MSC inventory, please click HERE.

For a list of ships assigned to MSC planning yards, please click HERE

Ready Reserve Force

The Ready Reserve Force, or RRF, is a fleet of reserve ships maintained and crewed by the Maritime Administration which can be activated in four, five, 10 or 20 days. Military Sealift Command (MSC) inspects the ships and accepts them.  When activated, RRF ships come under the operational control of MSC. The RRF includes fast sealift ships, roll-on/roll-off ships, lighter aboard ships, heavy lift ships, crane ships and government-owned tankers.  Because of their configurations, RRF ships are uniquely capable of handling bulky, oversized military equipment.  The shortage of roll-on/roll-off ships in the U.S. commercial market makes the RRF especially valuable.  As a key element of Department of Defense (DOD) strategic sealift, the RRF primarily supports transport of Army and Marine Corps unit equipment, combat support equipment and initial resupply during the critical surge period before commercial ships can be marshaled. The RRF provides nearly one-half of the government -owned surge sealift capability. 

For a list of vessels in the RRF inventory, please click HERE