By Ed Baxter
MSCFE Public Affairs
|The annual Korean Flag Shipping Work Group conference ensures that strong sealift assets are ready in the event of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula.|
U.S. Navy photo by Ed Baxter
United States military forces, including Military Sealift Command, maintain an active partnership with the Republic of Korea, training annually to respond to potential crises on the Korean peninsula.
Both nations hone their cooperative defense capabilities through large-scale field and computer-simulated exercises, such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and Key Resolve/Foal Eagle. The United States and South Korea also meet each year to ensure sealift assets are available to meet the potentially rigorous demands of resupplying U.S. troops with equipment and supplies.
Alternating between locations in the United States and South Korea, this year's Korea Flag Shipping Working Group Conference was held on South Korea's scenic Jeju-Do Island May 15-17.
"This working group reinforces U.S. Forces Korea's ability to support the warfighter," said Dr. Hyon Sang Yu, a ROK Ministry of Defense civilian employee who works as chief of the Korean Transportation Support Office, Transportation Division, for Seoul-based U.S. Forces Korea headquarters.
The U.S. delegation included 15 representatives from MSC Far East, MSC Office Korea, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Pacific Command, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and Defense Logistics Agency Energy-Korea.
South Korean attendees included eight representatives from the ROK navy and marine corps, Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Land Transportation and Maritime Affairs, and Transportation Command.
The Korean Flag Shipping Program has its origins in the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and South Korea, but was formalized by a memorandum of agreement signed by the commander of U.S. Pacific Command and the ROK chief of naval operations in 1981. The agreement enables MSC to assume full operational control of 59 South Korean-flagged, privately-owned cargo ships in the event of an emergency declared by the ROK government on the Korean peninsula.
These ships would, if activated, augment existing sealift capacity to support the shipment of wheeled and tracked vehicles, general supplies, ammunition, and aviation and diesel fuel to support U.S. bases, aircraft, ships and troops. The fleet of ships in the program currently includes container, break-bulk, roll-on/roll-off and petroleum product carriers.
"The complexity involved in activating, assigning ships and ensuring adequate sealift on this scale merits regular analysis to better understand the program," said MSCFE commander and KFS Working Group conference co-chair Navy Capt. Chip Denman.
During the conference, attendees evaluated the various types of ships currently enrolled in the program while also discussing the types and capabilities of ships that might better suit tomorrow's marine transportation requirements.
"We continually assess the number and type of KFS vessels needed to deliver fuel requirements and assigned locations of the vessel to be used to support the United States Forces Korea in the event of a contingency on the Korean peninsula," said Jeff Feltner, plans officer for DLA-Energy Korea.
Other discussions included various inspections and tests that are conducted to actively maintain the program's viability. Each quarter, one ship in the KFS program is thoroughly surveyed to ensure mission readiness. All 59 KFS ships are also required to test their communications systems; this year, MSCO Korea reported a 100 percent success rate for both initiatives.
"Our agreement and the realistic discussions held over the last few days will reinforce the combined ROK/U.S. strategic posture. I am very glad to get fruitful results from Capt. Denman and all U.S. agencies," said KFSWG co-chair Capt. Woo Eun Dong, director, Logistics Plans Division, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics, ROK Navy.
A chemical/oil carrier was added to the KFS program this year during Key Resolve 2012 in early March. Reserve Sailors from Bronx, N.Y.-based MSC Far East Expeditionary Port Unit 102 conducted an on-hire survey of the ship at Onsan, South Korea.
Representatives from the ROK's Ministry of Land Transportation, ROK 3rd Fleet, the ship's civilian master and chief engineer participated in the survey, assessing the ship's mission readiness and completed a signing ceremony officially designating the ship as a KFS asset.