DoD use of civilian shipping during crises

We are hearing a lot about a possible China-Taiwan war and participation of the US in this, especially the need for ‘up to 100’ civilian vessels, mostly tankers. There is no plan in place to do this. There is no certainty that civilian mariners would enter a hot war zone, even Americans. How about MSC negotiates ‘call options’ on merchant vessels in advance?

First wave would be the TSP/MSP vessels, and SSOP mariners who have contractual obligations to go move government cargo.

After that, Ive come to the conclusion there is no plan. Someone has to keep the lights on in the coastwise trade, any calling up of mariners would be voluntary, and as far as ships go, it it would likely a Turbo TSP program where the US government throws money at companies to buy and reflag tankers. That or pay up the wazoo for foreign tankers to deliver the cargo, which i see being way more realistic than sending an ATB on a trans-pac voyage.

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If a good number of the ships would need to be US flag, we don’t have enough American mariners. Perhaps, as in Desert Storm, ships could be re-flagged US and have only American senior officers.
As we know all of the TSP/MSP vessels are foreign built. US yards would be of minimal value to national defense, as they are now.
I don’t know if SSOP mariners could be forced to sail on vessels entering an active war zone.

Isn’t that the entire idea of the program?


Bigger problems to face if it were to come to that. If China invaded Taiwan, the US would either have to stand up to them, in cooperation with our Pacific Partners, or back down. Backing down would be a huge loss diplomatically, ruin US credibility for a long time. On the other hand, engaging China over Taiwan would mean another actual world war. China is running the calculations on these option, just like the pentagon is.

One easy calculation for China is comparing their 5,500+ ships in their foreign trading merchant fleet to our less than 100 foreign trading merchant vessels.
In a prolonged conventional war America would loose. A nuclear conflict America could potential win if we struck first but China has been upgrading their nuclear capabilities and is catching up fast.

In conventional wars, it is a numbers and logistics game. China has more shipyards/ building capacity, way larger merchant fleet, more naval vessels, more man power, closer to the potential battle field (Taiwan), long range land to sea ship killing missiles, and a willingness to fight to take Taiwan compared to a low willingness of Americans to defend Taiwan.

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No one will win in a nuclear war!


China has a “No first Strike” policy, so it would not be a nuclear conflict, unless US strike first.

If there IS a nuclear war:

That may be true, but I do not see any possibility of the US starting a nuclear war over Taiwan

Somehow I do not have great confidence in the planning abilities of our DoD


Agree!! I don’t see why the US will go to war with China over Taiwan at all. (??)
Officially US recognize Taiwan as part of China and has done so since 1979. (The “One China policy”):

Taiwan produces 60% of the world’s microchips, and 90% of the advanced chips. I’m by no means an expert in that field, but my understanding would be a maritime equivalent of Taiwan being really good at building LNG carriers and fancy chemical tankers and the rest of the world being okay at building T2 tankers. That’s how far ahead Taiwan is, and how reliant we are on Taiwan. The 2020 slowdown in production is one of the major causes of the price increase of cars and other electronics.

If the factories were destroyed in a conflict, it would be bad news for humanity for a while. Like the Library of Alexandria bad. If China were to “take control” of Taiwan, there would be a national security threat in that they would now control the secret sauce that makes first-world countries luxurious, and also what keeps the US military running. I think this would bring a power shift to the forming red team/blue team alliances that the US wouldn’t really be cool with. This would be as problematic, if not more so, than oil. As much as I’m a pacifist, China invading Taiwan makes a hell of a lot more sense than Russia invading Ukraine.


Well I guess it’s time for the USA to make their own chips and invest in the technology. That way it wouldn’t make a difference if China took Taiwan. Then no American and business really would care if China took control of their rogue province.


From what I can tell They’re working on it, vox actually did a really good breakdown of the situation.

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Not only the US need to do so, I believe that is what China is doing right now, developing their own high end chip making capability. Europe need to do so as well.

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That’s exactly what the government is already doing.

In 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which provides the Department of Commerce with $50 billion for a suite of programs to strengthen and revitalize the U.S. position in semiconductor research, development, and manufacturing—while also investing in American workers.


Maybe a dumb question: Is there a maritime CRAF?

  • note these are not old DC-6s and DC-3s stuck in corrosion corner that might not even start anymore, these are current production airplanes in daily use in their civilian jobs.
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Aren’t there some of these in the NDRF and/or MSP fleet?: