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Who is participating in the US Tanker Security Program

Article-Who is participating in the US Tanker Security Program

Photo: Stena Stena Immaculate one of nine vessels in the US Tanker Security Program
The US government has launched the tanker version of the long-standing Maritime Security Program – find out which vessels and owners are involved.

“Today we are announcing the first ships to join the Tanker Security Program (TSP), which will help strengthen both our supply chains and our national security by delivering fuel to our armed forces around the world while creating hundreds of good jobs for American mariners,” said, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

After two years of discussion the TSP is being implemented. It parallels the long-running Maritime Security Program (MSP)- where non-US built liner vessels are brought under the US flag. The MSP vessels - presently the fleet numbers 60  with participation from Maersk, APL and others - link US ports  in import and export trades, including supplying US military facilities and transporting cargo purchases financed by the US Export Import Bank, or EXIM. In the event of emergencies, the MSP vessels can support military efforts.

Nine vessels have been booked into the TSP so far, with the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) on the lookout for another vessel that would trade in Pacific waters. The US DOT says: “TSP establishes a fleet of active, commercially viable, militarily useful, privately owned product tank vessels of the United States that will meet national defense and other security requirements and maintain a United States presence in international commercial shipping.”

So far three MR tankers have been enrolled from each of Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. (OSG), Crowley-Stena Marine Solutions, LLC (a joint venture), and Seabulk Tankers, Inc. Crowley Maritime, describing its participation in the TSP, explains: “The tankers will continue international commercial operations but can be chartered on a short-term basis to serve the U.S. government’s operations.”  

The Crowley-Stena vessels are Stena Immaculate, Stena Imperative and Stena Impeccable. Seabulk is teaming up with Torm, and will bring Torm Thunder, Torm Thor, and Torm Timothy into the U.S. flag. Earlier this year, OSG had pitched Overseas Santorini, Overseas Mykonos - set to serve in another program, the Military Sealift Command, delivering fuel to US bases in the Pacific - and Overseas Sun Coast to the US DOT for participation in the TSP.

As explained by the US DOT, “Of the enrolled vessels, four are under US flag and are now operating in the program, and five are working with the assistance of the US Coast Guard to expedite reflagging to US registry to begin operating under TSP agreements. Each tank vessel enrolled will receive a maximum $6 million per year payment, prorated on a monthly basis for qualified service as participants in the program.”

Listen to a podcast on the outlook for the tanker market 

The launch of the TSP, where MR tankers will come aboard, comes at a time that US exports of petroleum products are booming; data from the US Department of Energy shows total product outbound moves exceeding 11 million barrels per day (mbd) in recent months, compared to the 2022 levels averaging below 10 mbd, this above pre Ukraine war levels of around 8 mbd ) making for auspicious timing, commercially.

This demand pushes up against another factor, which likely hastened the adaption of TSP - geopolitics. Prior to the Ukraine war, an estimated 30% of fuel consumption at US military bases on Europe had been sourced from Russia based on host country imports, according to a study by the prestigious Watson Institute, at Brown University. 

Reader resources:

US Dept of Transportation announcement: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-first-ships-enrolled-tanker-security-program

US Department of Energy- refined products exports:  https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=WTTEXUS2&f=W

Watson Institute study: https://watson.brown.edu/climatesolutionslab/research/2022/mapping-us-military-dependence-russian-fossil-fuels

US Export Import Bank transportation requirements: https://www.exim.gov/policies/us-flag-shipping-requirements

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