US to resurrect defence tanker agreement

Nov 08 2019

The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) is to resurrect the Voluntary Tanker Agreement (VTA).

On 1st November, 2019, MARAD published a notice seeking public comment on its draft VTA.

After being dormant since 2013, MARAD is seeking to re-establish the VTA under the voluntary agreement authority of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA), to provide the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) with assured access to tanker capacity to meet national defence needs, according to Bryant’s Maritime Newsletter.

The programme shares a number of similarities with the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), which provides USTRANSCOM with assured access to vessels, intermodal systems and equipment, terminal facilities, and related vessel management services.

In addition to potentially providing participants with access to Department of Defense charters and liquid bulk cargoes, the VTA also implements the DPA’s blanket antitrust defence for claims arising out of actions taken in the course of developing or carrying out the agreement.

Participation is open to all operators of tankers, integrated tug-barges (ITBs), and articulated tug-barges (ATBs) greater than 20,000 dwt. Operators of tankers, ITBs, and ATBs of less than 20,000 dwt are also eligible to participate if MARAD and USTRANSCOM determine that the operator’s vessels meet US security needs.

Comments on the draft VTA are due by 2nd December, 2019. MARAD will also hold an open meeting to develop the VTA’s final text, consistent with the DPA’s requirements. The date of the public meeting has not been announced, Bryant said.

The VTA is an integral part of MARAD’s larger strategic plan to grow the US-flag tanker fleet.

Section 3511 of the current draft National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 would authorise the creation of a Tanker Security Fleet, similar to the existing 60 vessel Maritime Security Program (MSP) fleet.

The programme would allow for the enrolment of 10 US-flag tankers, which would each receive a $6 mill annual stipend payment through FY2035.

Vessels engaged in the Tanker Security Fleet would be required to operate in US foreign commerce and must be enrolled in an emergency preparedness agreement, ie, the VTA.


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