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Military Cargo

What is Military Cargo?

Per the Military Cargo Preference Act of 1904, items procured for, intended for use by, or owned by military departments or defense agencies must move exclusively (100 percent) on U.S.-flag vessels, unless the rates are excessive or otherwise unreasonable for commercial vessels of the United States.

The Military's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) books most DOD container cargo on U.S.-flag vessels for the various DOD shipper services under the Universal (Ocean) Services Contract (USC). Shipping via the USC allows DOD shippers access and benefits related to cost and convenience such as pre-negotiated ocean shipping rates that adhere to the Cargo Preference laws.


MARAD's Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift initiates and recommends regulations and procedures to help the Department of Defense (DoD) stay compliant with military Cargo Preference laws. The office coordinates regularly with DOD component commands, contractors, suppliers, freight forwarders, and shipping companies to monitor and ensure compliance of U.S.-flag carriage requirements.

See our Cargo Preference Laws and Regulations page for guidance on military cargo.


For questions about military cargo, contact the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift