The US government is buying at least three of the world’s largest conro vessels from Italy’s Ignazio Messina, in a deal worth up to $88m per ship.

The deal was put together with the help of US owner Crowley Maritime and Sweden’s Stena Roro.

The ships are understood to be destined for a standby military support role in the US Ready Reserve Force, which means they will disappear from the commercially available fleet.