Groundbreaking for new Newport homeport for NOAA Atlantic research fleet

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo talks with reporters at the groundbreaking for a new Atlantic port at Newport, R.I. for NOAA research vessels May 6, 2024. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

A small fleet of federal fisheries and climate research vessels that now ply the Atlantic Ocean will be calling Newport their home port.

Federal and state officials broke ground on Monday for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s new Atlantic Marine Operations Center, estimated to cost upwards of $150 million and with a completion date by the Summer of 2027.

“The vessels homeported here and those coming here will help to deliver critical research that supports sustainable fisheries, safety at sea and vibrant ocean economy,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The former Rhode Island governor headlined a group of speakers that applauded the decision to relocate the headquarters from Virginia.

“The Marine Operations Center Atlantic supports half of our fleet,” said Admiral Nancy Hann, Director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. “It’s a fleet that collects fisheries data to make sure we sustainably support all of the nation’s fisheries, we collect hydrographic data to support the nation’s maritime commerce.” She said the other half of the fleet is stationed at Newport, Oregon.

Along with a new shoreside headquarters facility, the construction at Naval Station Newport includes a pier and floating dock.

Two NOAA research ships currently call Rhode Island home, including the 209-foot fisheries research vessel Henry B. Bigelow, and the 224-foot Okeanos Explorer, used by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard and others.

When the new facility is complete, they are to be joined by the Thomas Jefferson, a 208-foot long deep-water hydrographic survey ship and the 244-foot Discoverer, a state-of-the-art oceanographic research vessel, now under construction in Louisiana.

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