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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

The Ready Reserve Force (RRF)

American Ships. American Crews. American Jobs.

The Ready Reserve Force (RRF) is a subset of vessels within MARAD's National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) ready to support the rapid worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces. 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 critical surge periods -- the period of time before commercial ships can be secured for similar support. The RRF provides nearly 50% of government-owned surge sealift capability and has rightfully been called "America’s Sea Power Reliant Partner."


The program began with 6 vessels in 1977 and now consists of 48:

  • 42 roll-on/roll off (RO/RO) vessels, including
    •  8 Fast Sealift Support (FSS) vessels, 
    • 7 LMSR's (Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off)
  • 4 auxiliary craneships,  and
  • 2 aviation repair vessels

How does it work?

  • Strategically Positioned. Some RRF ships are anchored with the NDRF homeport in Beaumont, Texas, but most are anchored at various U.S. "outports" around the country, a combination of government and commercial facilities selected by military planners to minimize sailing time to strategic locations. Outported RRF ships are also used by the Army and Navy for cargo-handling exercises, and by various law enforcement agencies for homeland security training.
  • At-the-Ready. RRF ships are expected to be fully operational within their assigned 5 and 10-day readiness status and then sail to designated loading berths. Prior to being activated, commercial U.S. ship managers provide systems maintenance, equipment repairs, logistics support, activation, manning, and operations management by contract. The RRF is periodically tested by DOD-driven activations of ships for military cargo operations and exercises.
  • Crewed by Mariners. Ships in priority readiness have Reduced Operating Status (ROS) maintenance crews of about 10 commercial merchant mariners that are then supplemented by additional mariners on a situational basis once activated.

Inception and Usage

The RRF program was initiated in 1976 and is defined by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Transportation (DOT). To date, the RRF has experienced hundreds of vessel activations, with dozens per year supporting a variety of humanitarian, natural disaster, and military operations. For details, contact MARAD's Office of History or visit the Maritime Administration’s Video Theater to see the Ready Reserve Force in action.


For addiitonal questions, contact the Office of Sealift Support.