The Maritime Administration has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense’s United States Transportation Command to use National Defense Reserve Fleet ships, particularly DOT’s Ready Reserve Force, to support government response to civil emergencies at home, as well as for defense sealift and humanitarian response overseas.
The agreement, signed by Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton and General Norton A. Schwartz, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, formalizes using the ships in ways that have been tested under emergency conditions. During the hurricane season of 2005, RRF ships in , , provided the template for one use of the ships: emergency vehicles were driven on board two RRF ships berthed in , where they were sheltered from Hurricane Rita, and were thus ready to respond to local emergencies when the storm was over. Other RRF ships provided food and shelter for recovery workers and first responders on the during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
Since its inception in 1976, the primary purpose of the RRF is to provide the U.S. Transportation Command with strategic sealift support for combatant commanders. The 44 ships of the RRF are owned by the Maritime Administration, crewed by civilian merchant mariners, and managed by commercial companies. The new agreement details the procedures the agencies will use for civil contingencies and national disasters such as the safe storage of emergency vehicles, providing fuel for local emergency services, or berthing and feeding of first responders.
Maritime Administration programs promote the development and maintenance of an adequate, well-balanced United States merchant marine, sufficient to carry the Nation’s domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of service as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. The U.S. Transportation Command is responsible for creating and implementing world-class global deployment and distribution solutions in support of the President, Secretary of Defense, and Combatant Commander-assigned missions.