NROTC header logo





The SSMP is an education and training program conducted by the Department of Naval Science at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and six State Maritime Academies (SMA’s).  The SSMP administration, eligibility, and participation requirements are directed by Naval Education and Training Command’s Naval Service Training Command (NSTC).  These programs are designed to qualify participants for commissioned service into the Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP).  Midshipmen who successfully complete the SSMP will receive a U.S. Navy Reserve Officer commission as a Strategic Sealift Officer (SSO), designator 1665, with the rank of Ensign.  Newly commissioned SSO’s are part of the Strategic Sealift Readiness Group (SSRG) which is part of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) component.  The SSMP does NOT offer Navy ROTC scholarships, nor are Navy ROTC scholarships available to the SSMP.

Question:  What is the difference between SSMP and Navy ROTC?

Answer:  Navy ROTC produces Active Duty officers in the Navy and Marine Corps and awards academic scholarships to qualified midshipmen.

The SSMP produces Reserve officers in the Navy and does NOT provide scholarships.


What is a Strategic Sealift Officer and what do they do?
What are the Physical and Medical requirements to join the Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program?
What are the Academic requirements to join the Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program?
What are the Military Service obligations upon graduating from the Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program?
Is there an opportunity to serve in the Active Duty Navy upon graduating from the Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program?
Participating Strategic Sealift Maritime Academies
Is there any financial assistance to join the Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program?
Additional FAQ



To maintain within the Reserve Component of the U.S. Navy a cadre of Strategic Sealift Officers (SSOs).  The SSRG is comprised of actively sailing officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine who are qualified to operate merchant ships as naval auxiliaries and provide officer crewing for ships in the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and Military Sealift Command's (MSC) Surge Sealift Fleet.



The U.S. Merchant Marine is an essential component of national defense. It provides the primary sealift capability necessary to meet defense requirements.  Experience gained during previous conflicts has emphasized the importance of Navy coordination with all segments of the maritime industry.  In order to facilitate these integrated operations, the Department of the Navy established, the Merchant Marine Reserve (MMR), U.S. Naval Reserve Program.  This program is now the SSOP.



The SSOP supports national defense sealift requirement and capabilities, as executed by MSC.  SSOP provides naval reserve officers which are licensed merchant marine officers with sealift, maritime operations, and logistics subject matter expertise.



  • Active Duty for Training (ADT).  All SSRG members are required to complete 12 days of ADT each Fiscal Year (FY).
  • Active U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).  This can be as a Deck or Engineering Officer. The MMC must be endorsed for either Unlimited Tonnage (deck) or Unlimited Horsepower (engine), and be valid on all oceans.  A Standards, Training, Certification, and Watch-keeping (STCW) endorsement as Officer in Charge of Navigational Watch (OICNW) or OIC of Engineering Watch (OICEW) or higher is required.  The SSRG is an unlimited tonnage, oceans program and all members must be licensed to sail unlimited tonnage/horsepower (HP) vessels on international water, into foreign ports.
  • All SSRG officers are required to maintain eligibility for a Secret security clearance. Secret security clearances must be renewed every 10 years

[Back to Top]



  • Be a U.S. citizen, naturalized U.S. citizen, or have submitted naturalization papers.
  • Meet physical standards specified by the U.S. Coast Guard for original licensing as a merchant marine officer.
  • Meet the Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board (DoDMERB) physical qualification standards.
  • Register with the Selective Service Registration Representative if required under the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA).
  • Apply for, be offered, and have accepted midshipman status in the U.S. Naval Reserve and simultaneously have applied and been accepted for Enlisted Reserve Status.
  • Have no moral obligations or personal convictions that will prevent bearing of arms and supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic or to taking an oath to perform such acts.
  • All SSMP midshipmen are required to meet the same basic enrollment requirements as Navy ROTC midshipmen.


  • Not have passed your 25th birthday on the day of enrollment at the school (SIP requirement).
  • Be at least 17 years of age on or before 30 September of the year of enrollment and less than 27 years of age on 31 December of the year an applicant expects to graduate, complete all Navy ROTC training requirements, and be commissioned.  Those with prior or current active duty in the Armed Forces may be granted age waivers equal to the number of months served. Those granted the maximum age waiver must not have reached their 30th birthday by 31 December of year graduation and commissioning are anticipated.


  • All SSMP midshipmen must attain a performance level of "Good" on push-ups, sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run on their physical readiness test per Navy standards.
  • All SSMP midshipmen must be within U.S. Navy height and weight standards.
  • All SSMP midshipmen must participate in Unit-level physical training.
  • All SSMP midshipmen must qualify as a third-class swimmer.

[Back to Top]


  • Maintain a cumulative college GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • You must pursue a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in an approved USCG MMC track, such as Marine Transportation, Marine Engineering, Shipyard Engineering Management, Marine Engineering Systems, or the MMC track of Mechanical Engineering.
  • Complete the following three Naval Science Courses:  Introduction to the Strategic Sealift Program, Naval Science for the Strategic Sealift Officer, and Leadership and Ethics.
  • Participate in a Naval Science Laboratory.
  • Possess a secondary school education or equivalent, satisfactory for admission as an undergraduate to college under control of the State in which the school is located.
  • Meet the requirements established by the maritime academy in regard to secondary school grades, rank in graduating class, aptitude, achievement, and qualities of leadership.

[Back to Top]


  • Maintain an Active US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) for either Unlimited Tonnage (deck) or Unlimited Horsepower (engine), and be valid on all oceans with STCW endorsements for at least six (6) years following the date of graduation from the Academy. 
  • Active Duty for Training (ADT).  All SSRG members are required to complete 12 days of ADT each Fiscal Year (FY) for eight (8) years following the date of graduation. ADT will be scheduled for all SSRG officers each FY between 1 October and 31 March.
  • Required to report annually current contact and civilian employment information via Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS).
  • Required to obtain a Physical Health Assessment (PHA) annually.
  • Required to complete one Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) annually per calendar year.
  • Required to answer official correspondence, maintain NSIPS, and inform SSO Program Office of all address, phone number, employment, and e-mail changes.

[Back to Top]


Unlike other commissioning programs, members of the SSMP are not required to complete active duty service. The SSMP offers a limited number of opportunities to pursue an Active Duty commission upon graduation.  These limited number billets are based upon the current needs of the Navy and are not guaranteed.  Active duty military service obligations are based upon the community entered such as Surface Warfare, Aviation, Submariners, Special Ops (SEALs), Intel, as well as Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, or Army.  The Navy Reserve obligation as an SSO may be waived by serving as a commissioned officer on active duty in the armed forces of the U.S., in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or Public Health Service (PHS) Corps for at least five (5) years.

[Back to Top]



[Back to Top]


The Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Student Incentive Payment (SIP) Program is available to State Maritime Academy (SMA) students.  Students who enroll in the SIP program receive funding to offset the cost of uniforms, books, subsistence, and tuition in return for a service obligation.  The SIP Program is offered at all six State Maritime Academies.


The SIP students, called cadets, receive tuition assistance of up to $8,000 per school year, not to exceed 4 years or $32,000. In exchange for the financial assistance graduates of the SIP Program all incur a service obligation.


Feel free to contact the SMA of interest listed above. The SMA’s are unique academic institutions that provide students with an opportunity to receive a high quality education and the necessary training to become U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) credentialed Merchant Marine Officers.  The SIP program assists cadets in becoming U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) credentialed mariners who are critical to both the national security and economic needs of the Nation.



Having successfully completed the course of instruction at a State Maritime Academy for a maritime degree and upon receiving a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) with an officer endorsement, the remaining graduate's service obligation covers the following four (4) elements:

    1. Service/employment in the maritime industry for three (3) years (afloat employment is priority);
    2. Maintaining your USCG MMC for six (6) years; with the appropriate national/international endorsements and certifications required by the USCG for service aboard domestic and international vessels. Maintaining a document of continuity does not fulfill this portion of your obligation and there is no grace period. You must also maintain a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) for six (6) years following graduation and maintain a valid USCG medical certificate.
    3. Maintaining your Navy Reserve commission as an SSO for eight (8) years; and
    4. Annual compliance reporting to MARAD, until all service obligation components are fulfilled.

Fulfillment of the SIP Service Obligation requires completion of all elements listed above. The only exception to this is individuals who, serve as a commissioned officer on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States or as a commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). Those SIP graduates following graduation who provide five (5) years of honorable Active Duty service will fulfill their MARAD obligation, with the exception of their annual reporting.




Maritime Administration SIP Program


[Back to Top]




Question:  What is a USCG Unlimited License (Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)?

Answer:  Licensed ship’s officer aboard any vessel of any size, tonnage/ horsepower.  To learn more about a USCG MMC please visit:


Question:  What is the Merchant Marine?

Answer:  The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the U.S. government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States.


Question:  What is a maritime academy?

Answer:  The maritime academies meet the need of educating young men and women for service in the American merchant marine, in the U.S. Armed Forces, and in the Nation’s inter-modal transportation system.  There are six State Maritime Academies and one federally funded service academy.  The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is one of five federally funded service academies and it is funded by the Maritime Administration.  A congressional nomination and appointment are required in order to attend USMMA.


Question:  Is the Strategic Sealift Officers Program a new Program?

Answer:  Merchant Marine Officers have been supporting the U.S. military in one form or another since the birth of our nation.  During World War I a program was established to formalize this support.  This program has endured.  Formerly called the Merchant Marine Naval Reserve from 1925 to 1938, the Merchant Marine Reserve from 1938 to 2010 and since 2010, it is now called the Strategic Sealift Officer Program.

[Back to Top]
Report a Crime Voting Assistance Veterans Crisis Line! Click here for your lifeline.
Naval Service Training Command Officer Development, NAS Pensacola, 250 Dallas Street, Pensacola, FL 32508-5220 ~ 1.800.NAV.ROTC 
Official U.S. Navy Website  |  Parent Command
All site content is approved by the NSTC Public Affairs Office  |  NSTC Webmaster  |  Sitemap  |  Home
Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon