The SIU welcomed a new addition to the Seafarers-contracted fleet when the car carrier M/V Aida reflagged under the Stars and Stripes March 30 in New York. The vessel is being operated for American Roll-On/Roll-Off Carrier (ARC) by Tote Services, Inc.
Previously sailing under the flag of Sweden, the Aida was built in 2005 and delivered in 2006. It is 653 feet long and has a beam of 106 feet.
In announcing the reflagging, ARC noted that the Aida is replacing the M/V Courage in the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and also is enrolling in the related Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA). The Aida will be renamed at a later date.
According to the company, “The vessel will be among the most capable and militarily useful vessels in the U.S.-flag commercial fleet, able to carry tracked vehicles, helicopters, trucks and other military and high and heavy project cargoes.”
Enacted in 1996 and later renewed on two different occasions, the MSP provides for a fleet of militarily useful, U.S.-flag commercial vessels – crewed by U.S. citizens – that are readily available to the Defense Department during times of crisis or contingencies. The original MSP called for a fleet of up to 47 ships; the current program includes 60 vessels.
As noted by the Transportation Institute, a trade association of American-flag vessel operators, “The program demonstrates the United States’ continued recognition of the vital role the U.S. maritime industry assumes in our nation’s national defense infrastructure. During times of peace, these vessels ply our deep-sea international trades, generating jobs for U.S. citizens while generating income for maritime carriers and tax revenue for the government. When called upon by the government, participating vessel operators are required to make their ships and other commercial transportation resources available to the Department of Defense.”
One reason the program has enjoyed strong bipartisan support as well as consistently outspoken backing from top military leaders is that it provides the nation with an indispensable security asset at a tiny fraction of what it would cost to replicate. Studies and congressional testimonies have estimated the Defense Department would need more than $10 million in capital costs and $1 billion in annual operating expenses to duplicate what the MSP provides.
Similarly, the VISA provides the government with access to participating companies’ global infrastructure in times of need.