WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced contracts totaling $77 million for three U.S. maritime firms to operate 10 National Defense Reserve Fleet ships through July 27, 2015. “This money will help make sure these important Defense Reserve Fleet ships are manned with skilled mariners and are ready when our Nation calls,” said Secretary LaHood.
The contracts were awarded to Ocean Duchess Inc. of Houston, Texas for $16,618,430; Keystone Ocean Shipping of Bala Cynwyd, Pa. for $30,212,588; and Interocean American Shipping Corporation of Moorestown, N.J. for $30,533,710. These companies are responsible for maintaining the ships in good mechanical condition and ensuring crews are available for their operation when needed.
Eight of the ships are reserve-status cargo ships, part of the Department of Transportation’s Ready Reserve Force, and two ships are used to assist Missile Defense Agency operations. Ready Reserve Force ships have been activated 91 times since 2002.
“Missions in Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as rescue efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, show the need for a prepared and ready-to-act fleet of ships,” said Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda. “We rely on the U.S. merchant mariners for the day-to-day operation of these reserve duty and special-mission ships.”
The money was awarded to the companies which offered the best value to the government and was funded through Department of Defense funding and implemented by MARAD under the Ready Reserve Force program.