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Maritime Security Program (MSP)

A large blue vessel dashes through open water.

The Program

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) provides military access to a versatile fleet of government-owned/controlled and privately-owned U.S.-flag vessels ready to meet national defense and support a 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) of 2013 (H.R. 4310) authorized the Secretary of Transportation to extend existing Maritime Security Program operating agreements through September 30, 2025. Official documentation is located in the Federal Register

How it Works

The MSP program is similar to MARAD's VISA program in a few major ways. First, the MSP program provides an incentive to vessels in exchange for their availability during times of need. Second, vessels carry a U.S. flag and must make their ships and commercial transportation resources available upon request by the Secretary of Defense during times of war or national emergency. But that's where similarities end:

  • MSP incentive is explicitly financial, in the form of a stipend
  • Vessels participate under an umbrella of limited Congresisonal funding
  • There is a set number of operating agreements (currently 60)
  • In an MSP Operating Agreement, there is no "volunteering" element -- vessels cannot withdraw without Congressional approval
  • The MSP fleet is comprised of several vessel types, but leans toward military sealift support.


The 2013 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 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.

Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2019