February 28, 2003

Study shows military needs MSP fleet
The United States military would be unable to deploy and sustain its forces worldwide without using privately owned, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels, according to a report issued today.

The study is by the Maritime Policy Working Group of the National Defense Transportation Association's (NDTA) Military Sealift Committee. It demonstrates that since signed into law in 1996, the Maritime Security Program (MSP) has become a pillar of America's strategic sealift and global response capability, providing vessels, intermodal systems, and seafarers to support the military in such missions as Afghanistan and now, Iraq.

"The findings of this report underscore the recent testimony by General John W. Handy, USAF, the current Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Transportation Command, before a panel of the House Armed Services Committee, in which he stated that we simply cannot, as a nation, fight the fight without the partnership of the commercial maritime industry," said Vice Admiral A.J. Herberger, USN (Ret.) who chaired the Sealift Committee Working Group that prepared the report. "Our report agrees with General Handy's conclusion that the Maritime Security Program is the linchpin in this country's wartime U.S. commercial sealift capability."

The study also indicates that MSP is the most economically practical solution for transporting military equipment and supplies. Using privately-owned vessels provides the U.S. Military with the most "bang for the buck" as the cost for each MSP vessel is only $2.1 million per year, less than one-tenth of the estimated annual operating cost of providing the same capability using government-owned ships.

The U.S. Military has estimated it would cost the taxpayer $9 billion to replicate the capacity made available to it through MSP and its associated Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA).

MSP ships sail under the U.S. flag, are crewed by U.S. mariners, are operated by U.S. companies and are subject to U.S. laws.

MSP is set to expire on September 30, 2005, and as General Handy testified in October, the U.S. military is fully supportive of reauthorization of MSP and sees it becoming increasingly more important. The ongoing war on terrorism may push the demand for commercial sealift even higher as the U.S. Military engages simultaneously in operations in several theaters.

"MSP is an unquestionable success and the private shipping companies that deliver the goods deserve our support--and our thanks," Admiral Herberger said.

If reauthorization of MSP fails or if the provisions of program participation are unattractive to commercial shippers, the U.S.-flagged liner fleet in foreign trades would disappear and force increased reliance on ships of foreign registry, entrusting military cargo to non-U.S. crews in times of great crisis. Additionally, a decrease in these ships means slower response time to international conflict, and predictably higher costs to the U.S.

"Our military can't do it all alone," said NDTA President, Lieutenant General Kenneth Wykle, USA (Ret.) "We need our commercial shipping partners and this study demonstrates the absolute importance and tremendous benefits of this program."

Specifically, the study finds that MSP:

    1. Maximizes the capability, readiness and reliability of U.S. strategic sealift through immediate assured access to intermodal capacity with the global reach required to deploy and support U.S. military forces worldwide;

    2. Permits immediate expansion of sealift capacity in an emergency as well as providing a reserve consisting of un-tapped U.S. -flag capacity;

    3. Ensures the availability of trained, STCW (Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping) certified mariners to crew U.S. Government organic sealift assets;

    4. Is less costly to acquire, operate, and maintain than U.S. Government- owned assets and intermodal systems for sustainment sealift, thus performing the military logistics mission in a significantly more cost effective manner; and

    5. Ensures an intermodal system that is continuously modernized by its private sector commercial owners, without government assistance.

The Military Sealift Committee is one of the three modal committees within NDTA that provide a forum for discussions between military leaders and senior industry executives on issues involving defense transportation. Chaired by James L. Henry, president of the Transportation Institute, the committee focuses on the role of the commercial shipping industry in providing ships, intermodal systems, and seafarers for the sealift mission.

Organized in 1944, NDTA is a non-political, non-profit educational association dedicated to fostering a strong and efficient global transportation and distribution system to enhance economic growth and security. There are more than 7,800 active corporate and individual members in the association. NDTA has over 60 chapters in the United States and overseas in Europe and the Pacific. The national office is located in Alexandria, VA.

The NDTA report is available on the NDTA website at

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