If Excess Chartered Sealift Capacity Is Needed for Contingencies, It Should Be Put to Maximum Peacetime Use

LCD-80-110: Published: Sep 30, 1980. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1980.

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The military's use of chartered cargo ships was examined because it was noted in a prior review of the Military Sealift Command's (MSC) readiness capability that these ships appeared to be underused.

MSC charters ships are used to carry military cargo. While these usually sail more than half empty, the Navy is buying space on regularly scheduled commercial ships. Cargo which could have been shipped with MSC was being shipped commercially. In an analysis of two voyages, GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) transportation costs could have been reduced by about $438,000 by diverting some of the cargo which moved commercially to the two chartered ships. DOD officials believe the underuse of chartered ships is a price which should be paid for readiness, and that DOD should continue its policy of shipping the bulk of its goods on commercial ships since those ships offer the advantage of containerized shipment. Military traffic managers base their decisions to use commercial or chartered ships on DOD policy, which is unclear because it encourages both the maximum possible use of commercial carriers and the support of the chartered fleet.

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