Congress extends MSP to 2025
Congress gave the U.S.-flag vessel industry a Christmas gift of sorts on Dec. 22 by extending the Maritime Security Program beyond its 2015 expiration to 2025.
The bill awaits President Obama's signature.
The MSP extension approval was part of the massive 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6523), and championed by outgoing House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo.
The current MSP program was authorized by the 2005 Maritime Security Act and administered by the Maritime Administration. The program provides the federal government immediate access to 60 modern U.S.-flag commercial container, roll-on/roll-off, and heavy-lift vessels.
Government payments to participating operators were $2.6 million per ship per year for fiscal years 2006 to 2008, followed by $2.9 million for fiscal years 2009 to 2011, and $3.1 million for fiscal years 2012 to 2015. Payments are subject to annual appropriations.
The three largest carriers in MSP are Maersk Line Ltd., APL, and American Roll-on Roll-Off Carrier. MSP carriers have been instrumental in ferrying equipment and supplies in support of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. MSP carriers provided all surface-borne transport for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
A National Defense Transportation Association study noted it would cost the U.S. government $13 billion to replicate the 60 ships and another $52 billion to match the related intermodal networks.
In addition to $174 million for MSP in fiscal year 2011, H.R. 6523 also ensures funds for other U.S.-flag maritime programs administered by MarAd, including:
' $100 million for operational expenses at the Merchant Marine Academy, of which $30.9 million is for infrastructure and capital improvements at the school.
' $60 million for Title XI guaranteed loan program.
' $15 million to support the state maritime academies.
' $10 million to dispose of obsolete ships. ' Chris Gillis