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Common-user sealift

Definition Common-user sealift is a term used in military operations to describe the maritime transport services that are employed by the Department of Defense and other authorized users for general purposes. This can include the shipping of equipment, supplies, and personnel for military needs. The usage is not exclusive to one specific user but shared […]


Common-user sealift is a term used in military operations to describe the maritime transport services that are employed by the Department of Defense and other authorized users for general purposes. This can include the shipping of equipment, supplies, and personnel for military needs. The usage is not exclusive to one specific user but shared by various authorized entities under military operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Common-user sealift is a term used in military operations which primarily refers to the shared use of sealift transportation resources by the military, where the transportation command retains centralized control over the sealift assets.
  2. The common-user sealift concept is crucial for efficient logistical support, particularly during times of war or other significant military operations, offering flexibility in the strategic deployment of military equipment, troops, and supplies.
  3. This strategy ensures that resources are utilized effectively and can rapidly respond to changes in operational requirements, reducing the need for each military unit or branch to maintain its own unique, and potentially underused, sealift assets.


Common-user sealift is a critical term used in military operations as it refers to the strategic coordination and usage of shared sea transport resources across military departments.

This is important because it provides a unified and systematic approach to transportation availability during operations, streamlining the process of mobilizing troops, vehicles, and other military cargo.

The common-user sealift arrangement offers increased efficiency, flexibility, and reliability which significantly improves the logistics and effectiveness of military operations.

It also ensures optimal utilization of resources which is essential in significant cost reduction, preventing wastage while maximizing military capabilities.


The purpose of Common-user sealift, an important term used in military operations, is essentially to provide a collective transportation system via sea for various military departments or agencies. This shared platform facilitates the transportation of cargo and personnel not only in peacetime but also during periods of crises and war. This system typically features a range of vessels such as dry cargo ships, tankers, and roll-on/roll-off ships, all of which are earmarked for the transport of fixed military cargo across vast distances.

The usage and availability of this sea-lift capability is crucial to the execution of military strategies and operations. Common-user sealift is used for a range of reasons, primarily aiding in the deployment and resupply of military troops around the world. It serves as a critical connective tissue between military forces operating in remote locations and their supply bases.

This ensures that the military contingents are constantly resourced and equipped, enabling them to carry out their missions effectively and successfully. For instance, during wartime, common-user sealift could be responsible for carrying substantial amounts of tanks, fuel, ammunition, and other supplies to the theatre of operations. Thus, its utility extends beyond just basic transportation, ultimately serving as a linchpin in effective military logistics.

Examples of Common-user sealift

Common-user sealift is a method of transport that involves the use of seafaring vessels to transport military equipment, supplies, and personnel. This term is often used in reference to operations carried out by military forces that require significant logistical support. Here are three real world examples of common-user sealift:

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991):In this operation, the U.S. military relied heavily on sealift to transport vast quantities of equipment, supplies, and personnel to the Persian Gulf. More than 95 percent of all military equipment and supplies used in this operation were transported via sea, showcasing the importance and reliance of the U.S. military on common-user sealift.

The Korean War (1950-1953):Sealift played a vital role in the military operations during the Korean War. United Nations forces, primarily the US, used sealift capabilities extensively to transport supplies and reinforcements to the Korean Peninsula. Merchant marine ships transported troops, tanks, airplanes, food, fuel, and medical supplies.

Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011):During these operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense relied significantly on common-user sealift. Military Sealift Command’s ships delivered necessary supplies for these operations, including combat cargo ships filled with tanks, ammunition, food, fuel, and other essential material. In all these examples, common-user sealift was crucial in ensuring that military forces received the equipment and supplies they needed to carry out their operations successfully.

FAQs: Common-User Sealift

What is a Common-user Sealift?

A Common-user sealift is a naval operation that coordinates and organizes the transport of equipment and materials over sea. It is commonly used by the military to support their operations, especially in remote areas or war zones.

Who uses the Common-user Sealift?

The Common-user Sealift is used primarily by military organizations, but it can also be used by other governmental agencies or non-governmental organizations that require large scale, organized transport over sea.

How does a Common-user Sealift operation work?

A Common-user Sealift operation involves coordination between various parties, including logistics planning, loading of equipment, safe navigation, and unloading at the target destination. Specific procedures can vary based on the content being transported and the specific situation.

What types of materials can be transported via a Common-user Sealift?

All types of military equipment, vehicles, supplies, and other necessary materials can be transported via a Common-user Sealift. Specific limitations will depend on size and weight constraints of the sealift vessels, as well as any safety or legal regulations.

What advantages does a Common-user Sealift provide?

A Common-user Sealift provides a means of transporting large volumes of equipment or supplies over long distances via sea. This can be especially advantageous in situations where air or land transport is not feasible. Additionally, it can be more cost-effective in certain situations.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Department of Defense Sealift
  • Military Sealift Command
  • Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)
  • Deployable logistics
  • Ready Reserve Force (RRF)

Sources for More Information

  • U.S. Transportation Command: This is the official website of the United States Transportation Command. They manage all global air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense, including common-user sealift.
  • Maritime Administration (MARAD) – U.S. Department of Transportation: MARAD is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that deals with waterborne transportation. It integrates the nation’s maritime transportation system, including the military’s common-user sealift needs.
  • Military Sealift Command: Military Sealift Command is the provider of ocean transportation for the United States Navy and Department of Defense, the primary users of common-user sealift.
  • The National Academies Press (NAP): NAP publishes reports by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that provide independent, objective analysis. They have various reports on common-user sealift and defense transportation.

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