MSC Delivers: Sealift #Warfighting Support

October is #WARFIGHTING month, and Military Sealift Command works 24/7 to operate the ships that sustain our warfighting forces worldwide. The following post is the fifth in a series that highlights each of MSC’s five ship programs and their vital missions.

Ninety percent of combat gear is delivered by sea. During the past decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, MSC has played a large role in delivering this equipment, as well as vital wartime cargo and fuel, to troops and ships overseas.

MSC’s Sealift Program provides high-quality, efficient and cost-effective ocean transportation for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies during peacetime and war. The program manages a mix of government-owned and long-term-chartered dry cargo ships and tankers, as well as additional short-term or voyage-chartered ships. By DOD policy, MSC must first look to the U.S – flagged market to meet its sealift requirements. Government-owned ships are used only when suitable U.S.-flagged commercial ships are unavailable.

Some examples of this support include:


  • Tankers transport refined petroleum products for DOD between commercial refineries and DOD storage and distribution facilities worldwide. These tankers are specially constructed refueling-at-sea platforms. Their missions are unique, such as refueling the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the U.S. Air Force early warning station at Thule Air Base, Greenland
  • When more fuel-carrying capacity is required, MSC charters additional tankers directly from the commercial market on a short-term basis. This gives MSC the flexibility to meet rapidly changing military requirements with the lowest possible cost.
  • MSC coordinates fuel lift requirements with the Defense Energy Support Center, ensuring efficient and cost-effective transportation of more than 1.5 billion gallons of fuel annually.

Dry Cargo

  • Nearly all peacetime DOD cargo is carried by U.S.-flagged commercial ships. But during wartime or other contingencies, MSC has the flexibility to charter ships to move dry cargo as needed.
  • MSC’s dry cargo ships often carry items that are too large to fit in containers, such as engineering and construction equipment, military vehicles, aircraft and ammunition.


  • Each LMSR is capable of lifting more than 300,000 square feet of cargo and can travel at up to 24 knots. Each ship is capable of carrying the equipment requirements of an Army air assault or armored battalion of 1,000 soldiers.


  • MSC can expand its Sealift capability by activating ships from its government-owned surge fleet, which includes more than 40 Ready Reserve Force ships owned and maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.
    • These ships are maintained in a five-day readiness status, each with a nine-person crew aboard. They are located in ports around the U.S. East, Gulf and West coasts in close proximity to potential military loading sites.

The vital missions performed by Sealift ships couldn’t be accomplished without the crews who operate them – civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC. Navy warfighters count on MSC to sustain them in the fight and #MSCDelivers.

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