The U.S. Navy awarded a $146.7 million contract to New York-based Skanska USA to design and build a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric base on Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island, with plans for the facility to eventually be homeport for NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic. 

Design details are still being finalized, according to a brief prepared statement issued by NOAA late Tuesday. requirements include having a pier that will accommodate four large vessels, a floating dock for smaller vessels, space for vessel repairs and parking and a building to be used for shoreside support and as a warehouse. Construction is anticipated to be completed by 2027. 

Design and construction of the NOAA port will be “funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act — a historic $3.3 billion investment to help communities, including tribes and vulnerable populations, prepare, adapt and build resilience to weather and climate events in pursuit of a climate-ready nation,” according to the agency. “The act also supports improvements to weather and climate data and services, and strengthens NOAA’s fleet of research airplanes and ships.” 

“As we work to combat the climate crisis, building climate resilient facilities, like this one in Rhode Island, is critical to ensuring our infrastructure stands the test of time,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“By co-locating with Naval Station Newport, we are able to make our ship operations more efficient and increase long-term cost savings through sharing common capabilities,” said NOAA Corps Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. “We are excited to take this step in creating a state-of-the-art marine operations center for NOAA in Rhode Island.”

“Naval Station Newport looks forward to continuing its support for the missions of NOAA from our installation waterfront,” said Capt. Henry Roenke, the installation commander. “An expanded NOAA footprint here punctuates the value and diversity of the missions and partners at the base and makes the Naval Station a vital community and asset for military and non-military operations.”

The center and ships are an operational component of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. The ships in NOAA’s Atlantic fleet collect data essential to protecting marine mammals, coral reefs and historic shipwrecks, managing commercial fisheries, understanding climate change and producing nautical charts that help keep mariners safe. NOAA ships also deploy and help maintain buoys that gather oceanographic and weather information and warn of tsunamis.

The contract was awarded following a request for proposals that was open from January to August 2023. 

NOAA’s fleet of 15 research and survey ships are operated, managed and maintained by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. Ranging from large oceanographic research vessels capable of exploring the world’s deepest ocean, to smaller ships responsible for charting the shallow bays and inlets of the U.S. The fleet supports a wide range of marine activities, including fisheries surveys, nautical charting and ocean and climate studies. NOAA ships are operated by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional mariners.