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Purchase of two used ROROs a critical step in sealift recapitalization

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (March 25, 2022) – The Navy and Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) recent purchase of two used roll-on roll-off (RORO) vessels is an important step in addressing one of U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) top priorities, the recapitalization of the strategic sealift fleet.


“Sealift is important to deploying a combat-credible force, and USTRANSCOM provides a strategic advantage through the efficient use of our nation’s strategic sealift fleet,” said Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, USTRANSCOM commander. “The purchase of these ships is a critical step towards a stabilized program of sealift recapitalization that will maintain the advantage we currently enjoy.”


Maintaining an adequate fleet of seaworthy ships is critical to USTRANSCOM’s ability to deploy forces in a major conflict, as nearly 90 percent of U.S. military equipment would move by ship. As ships in the fleet age, they become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain, to the point that purchasing replacement vessels is required to maintain the capability they bring.


Thirty seven of 50 large RORO vessels in the fleet are set to retire in the next 10 years.


“Most sealift ships in the government fleet are reaching the age where maintenance and repair costs are escalating and service-life extensions will not yield proportional increases in readiness,” said Ron Marselle, chief of the Sealift and Surface Distribution Branch in the command’s Strategic Plans, Policy and Logistics Directorate.


An integrated program office, consisting of professionals from both MARAD and Naval Sea Systems Command, facilitated the purchase of the ships to address this critical need through MARAD’s contracted Vessel Acquisition Manager Crowley Government Services.


The two used ships, HONOR and FREEDOM, to be named CAPE ARUNDEL and CAPE CORTES, have served the Department of Defense for many years as U.S.-flagged ships participating in the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Commercial ships in the DOT/MARAD MSP program are also militarily useful and required to enroll in a joint DOD-DOT Emergency Preparedness Program. Carriers with ships enrolled in MSP receive a stipend from the DOT/MARAD to operate in international commerce and be available for military use.


One of the requirements for vessels in the MSP is that they are less than 25 years old. Maritime industry partners make long-term commitments to the MSP, so when a ship enrolled in MSP reaches an age of 25 years, that partner is required to remove the ship from the program and replace that capacity with a newer ship. That is the situation here where the commercial operator has already put two U.S.-flag RORO ships into the MSP as replacements, providing newer and more capable commercial capacity into this emergency sealift program.


Both ships will soon begin modification and outfitting processes in U.S. shipyards to prepare them for their new assignments in MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF), where they will continue to serve the nation.


The RRF is just one element of the strategic sealift portfolio available to USTRANSCOM to move assets around the world. In addition to the RRF, the prepositioning fleet is a critical fleet of container and RORO ships loaded with equipment and ammunition in strategic locations around the world. Military Sealift Command’s Surge Fleet also provides critically needed sealift capacity. Altogether, the government-owned, organic fleet is comprised of approximately 65 ships.


USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, TRANSCOM underwrites the lethality of the Joint Force, advances American interests around the globe, and provides our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.


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