For the first time in over thirty years, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced the purchase of two vessels to continue modernizing the Ready Reserve Force (RRF).
The RRF, a subset of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), which MARAD manages, was founded to support U.S. military deployments, while also supporting natural disaster relief and mariner training. MARAD is in its 76th year of maintaining the Nation’s reserve of sealift ships.
The two ships, HONOR and FREEDOM, will join the U.S. flag fleet at Cape Arundel and Cape Cortes, adding more than 432,000 square feet of total sealift capacity and 316,000 square feet of military cargo capacity. Both vessels carried military cargoes for many years and participated in the Maritime Security Program (MSP).
These vessels were purchased using a vessel acquisition manager (VAM), an integrated program office that includes MARAD and Naval Sea Systems Command members and leverages commercial practices. Partnering with a VAM enables the Departments of Transportation and Defense to partner with the industry to effectively and more quickly replace aging sealift vessels with newer ships to meet national security requirements.
“The Ready Reserve Force is an essential element of U.S. national security,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are proud to use this innovative method to more quickly acquire two additional vessels and ensure America’s Ready Reserve Fleet is always ready to answer the call.”
The two ships will replace older vessels retired in Fiscal Year 2022 and will be owned by the Department of Transportation.
The ships are U.S.-flagged and classified by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), and both participated in the Maritime Security Program. After upgrades are made, MARAD plans for both vessels to be ready for tasking by early Fall 2022.
“We selected these ships to continue the RRF recapitalization because each meets criteria set forth in the National Defense Authorization Act and provides a standard set of capabilities that we identified with the U.S. Navy, Military Sealift Command, and U.S. Transportation Command,” said Acting Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “These vessels will provide reliable sealift capacity for years to come.”
MARAD’s recapitalization of the RRF has its foundations in the U.S. Navy’s 2018 “Sealift That the Nation Needs” strategy. The Navy recommended service life extensions of existing RRF vessels, which are ongoing, in addition to the purchase of used vessels which MARAD is undertaking, as well as new construction. There is a need to replace capacity, as the age of many RRF vessels makes them difficult and costly to maintain.