Korean Flag Shipping Program Working Group Conference 2013

The Korean Flag Shipping Program is a part of an active relationship between the United States and Republic of Korea. Formalized in 1981, the program enables Military Sealift Command to assume operational control of up to 59 South Korean-flagged, privately-owned cargo ships in the event of an emergency declared by the ROK government on the Korean peninsula. Both nations meet each year to ensure sealift assets are available to meet the potentially rigorous demands of resupplying U.S. troops with equipment and supplies. Alternating between locations in the United States and South Korea, this year’s Korean Flag Shipping Working Group Conference kicked off June 10 in Washington, D.C. Navy Capt. James Hruska, commander, MSC Far East, is the conference’s co-chair. In the following blog post, he discusses the importance of the conference and some topics for discussion this year:

Capt. James Hruska

Capt. James Hruska

Anyong Hashim Nikka, which is hello in Hangul, the national language of the Republic of Korea.

Today, Military Sealift Command welcomes delegates from the ROK Navy, Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Land Transportation and Maritime Affairs for the 48th annual Korea Flag Shipping Working Group Conference.

I am honored to serve as this year’s co-chair along with my counterpart from the South Korean Navy, Capt. Byung Mo Lee – director, Logistics Plans Division, Deputy Chief of Navy Operations, headquarters, Republic of Korea Navy.

Over the next three days, we have opportunities to build upon the historic partnership between the United States and the Republic of Korea by strengthening defense capabilities, and, perhaps most important, fostering friendships and camaraderie in the spirit of the U.S.-ROK relationship.

The key words “working group” in the title of this government-to-government conference mean just that: Our job, therefore, is not to put a rubber stamp on an existing agreement. Rather, through face-to-face dialogue, we seek initiatives and ideas to ensure this immensely important program is moving in the right direction.

In the event of a real-world crisis on the Korean peninsula, strategic sealift would play a vital role in the defense of South Korea. The complexity involved in activating up to 59 South Korean-flagged commercial cargo ships in a timely and efficient manner merits regular analysis to better improve the program. In particular, we continually assess the composition of KFS program ships in terms of dry cargo and fuel capacity and recommend changes to improve delivery or close any sealift shortfalls.

As many of you know, Combined Forces Command will transition to U.S. Korea Command in a little less than two years. With this important transition to ROK operational control over forces on the peninsula, we will also discuss how the KFS program may be affected and ensure we keep the program on track.

We will also build upon the successes of action items implemented from previous KFS conferences. A few examples are: Quarterly, one ship in the KFS program is surveyed to ensure it is mission ready. In addition, all KFS ships are required to test their communications systems to ensure they are ready if called upon. Last year, MSC Office Korea reported a 100 percent success rate in communications tests! That is a remarkable achievement. Of course, we’ll also review open action items from last year’s KFS conference to assess progress.

Katchi Kapshida! This means, “we go together,” a Hangul phrase used frequently at U.S. Forces Korea.

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