International Security

Achieving unprecedented logistical feats

Providing almost 50 percent of all government-owned surge sealift capability, the Ready Reserve Force can transport Army and Marine Corps equipment, move combat support equipment, and replenish essential materials to bases and the front lines for months at a time.

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In 2014, the U.S. shipping industry embarked on an unprecedented mission that soon became a celebrated military and diplomatic milestone. The Syrian regime had just agreed to hand over hundreds of tons of lethal chemical weapon precursors, but the U.S. and its international partners faced the daunting task of disposing of the material. Other countries refused to receive the highly volatile and toxic substances.  

So, the U.S. called upon the MV Cape Ray, a vessel normally used for hauling military equipment, to undertake the extraordinary task of neutralizing the chemicals at sea.

About Keystone Shipping

Keystone Shipping is a global provider of innovative maritime transportation and solutions.  We deliver operational excellence by performing the highest quality vessel operations and ship management in the maritime industry.  Our goal – to deliver superior operating performance and ship management at all times – has remained unchanged since our first day of business more than 100 years ago. While Keystone’s vessels are engaged in many different trades, they all operate to one exceptional standard.  Our highly trained and experienced workforce, both onshore and at sea, underpins the steadfast commitment to excellence that has been a hallmark of Keystone, since the Company was founded.

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U.S. carrier Keystone Shipping Co. retrofitted the vessel to meet the sophisticated needs of the specialized mission, trained the crew to successfully integrate with WMD disposal personnel at the Departments of Energy and Defense, and manned the platform during the arduous operation.

The successful mission demonstrated the indispensable value of the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), a fleet of 46 U.S. military cargo vessels operated by commercial ship managers and designed to respond quickly to unexpected challenges all over the world. In the case of MV Cape Ray, a U.S.-flagged carrier was willing and able to help our government lead the world out of a dangerous predicament when there was no other viable solution. While not all operations are that visible, all carriers in the fleet remain constantly available to transport military unit equipment during initial surge for U.S. forces deploying anywhere in the world.

The primary mission of the RRF is to carry out a surge sealift — or the massive initial movement of equipment and supplies — in the event of a rapid deployment of military forces at the start of a conflict. Providing almost 50 percent of all government-owned surge sealift capability, the force can transport Army and Marine Corps equipment, move combat support equipment, and replenish essential materials to bases and the front lines for months.

Keystone maintains a high level of readiness to execute collateral missions such as responding to civil emergencies and supporting humanitarian relief missions. The carrier took part in humanitarian missions including providing berthing and subsistence for federal employees and other first responders following Hurricane Katrina, the transport of earth-moving equipment in response to hurricanes impacting Central American nations, and the support of key humanitarian missions in Haiti. Overall, Keystone operates a fleet of 23 oceangoing ships including dry bulk vessels, tank barges, tankers and roll-on/roll-off vessels — with 11 of its vessels part of the RRF. All told, the company has successfully carried out hundreds of RRF missions since it began participating in the force in 1994, and it has managed over 150 vessels since its inception in 1909.

Whatever the next global crisis, we need these vessels to be ready to answer the call. That’s why Keystone and other RRF ship managers are constantly training during peacetime to ensure they are prepared at a moment’s notice. As a result, the force prides itself on flawless reliability and a track record of 100 percent on-time activation of mission-ready ships.

Given the great dependability of these ships, it is imperative we uphold U.S.-flagged carriers’ capacity to support these operations for decades to come. The RRF fleet is aging with an average vessel age of 45 years, and many are even powered by outdated steam propulsion. If we don’t invest in replacing these vessels with new ships, we’ll face higher maintenance costs and the likelihood that our force won’t be able to mobilize on time in the future. We can’t leave our national security to chance — we must support the RRF.

National Security

Learn how The U.S. Deep Sea Shipping Industry Supports our National Security.