Coast Guard signs new deal to service NOAA's Atlantic fleet

The following is the text of a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:

(WASHINGTON) (Aug. 19) — U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has signed a new five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Coast Guard yard at Curtis Bay supporting Maryland jobs. The Coast Guard yard at Curtis Bay employs nearly 600 military and civilian personnel. This MOU provides a new mission at the yard of ship maintenance and repair services for NOAA's Atlantic fleet of ocean-going science vessels.

"A world-class science fleet needs world-class maintenance services," Mikulski said. "This new agreement is a one-two punch for Maryland, supporting jobs today at Curtis Bay and jobs tomorrow in Maryland's coastal economies. By taking advantage of the yard's reliable expertise, NOAA can expect reduced delays in maintenance periods, which will mean more time collecting valuable fisheries data offshore and more time mapping our bays and coasts for safe navigation."

NOAA's Atlantic fleet is comprised of nine ships along the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, which conduct hydrographic mapping, oceanographic research and fishery surveys. This ship services MOU between NOAA and the Coast Guard is the latest agreement between the two maritime agencies to expand and broaden their partnership. It allows the yard to provide ship repairs to NOAA vessels including dry dock services, dock side repairs, parts fabrication, and engineering support. The yard has reliably repaired and renovated ships for the Coast Guard for over a century, serving as the U.S. Coast Guard's sole shipbuilding and major repair facility.

Mikulski has stood sentry over our nation's ocean and weather infrastructure by supporting increased federal investments in NOAA's research and technology development, including NOAA's marine and aviation operations, which are critical to our understanding and prediction of changes in Earth's weather, climate and oceans.

In June, Mikulski announced committee passage of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Homeland Security spending bill, legislation that includes $49 million in federal funding to continue the critical work of the Coast Guard yard at Curtis Bay. This is an increase of $28 million over FY 2014 levels and double the president's budget request. This funding is needed for the Coast Guard to perform its missions, keep maintenance costs down, keep projects on schedule and prevent a reduction in the yard's work force.

"The U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA have a strong and enduring partnership as America's front-line services for maritime commerce, science, security, and environmental resilience. This agreement adds a valuable dimension to that relationship, and makes very effective use of our assets and capabilities," said Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA administrator and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

NOAA tentatively plans to send at least one ship per year to the yard with the Coast Guard being reimbursed on a time-and-materials basis. Repair contracts with private sector shipyards and services will still continue in cases when private sector options cost less.

By Professional Mariner Staff