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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

Maritime Security Program (MSP)

A large blue vessel dashes through open water.

The Program

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) maintains a fleet of commercially viable, militarily useful merchant ships active in international trade. The MSP fleet is available to support U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) sustainment sealift requirements during times of conflict or in other national emergencies. The program also provides DoD access to MSP participants’ global intermodal transportation network of terminals, facilities, logistic management services, and U.S. citizen merchant mariners.

President Clinton first established the Maritime Security Program (MSP) on October 8, 1996 as part of the Maritime Security Act of 1996. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 (S. 1790) authorized the Secretary of Transportation to extend existing Maritime Security Program operating agreements through September 30, 2035. Official documentation is located in the Federal Register

How it Works

  • The MSP program provides a retainer incentive to vessels in exchange for their availability during times of need
  • MSP vessels are U.S.-registered and must make their ships and commercial transportation resources available upon request by the Secretary of Defense during times of war or national emergency
  • MSP incentive is explicitly financial, in the form of a stipend
  • Vessels participate under an umbrella of limited Congressional funding
  • There is a set number of operating agreements (currently 60
  • The MSP fleet is comprised of several vessel types, and leans toward military sustainment sealift support.

The 2020 NDAA guarantees only 60 congressionally-funded operating agreements. All 60 agreements are currently filled. Should the number of agreements increase, or an agreement become vacant, the Maritime Administration will publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting applicants.

The (NEW) Maritime Security Program Application is available for reference, as well as information on the MSP Schedule 310 form required of all currently-participating vessels.

For assistance, or questions about any aspect of the MSP Program, contact the Office of Sealift Support.