NOAA signs 10-year lease to homeport research ship in Rhode Island

The following is the text of a press release issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
(NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I.) — NOAA has awarded a new 10-year lease to Quonset Development Corporation of North Kingstown, R.I., in support of homeporting NOAA’s newest oceanic research vessel, Okeanos Explorer.
The facility, in Davisville, R.I., has approximately 8,280 square feet of space for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which operates the ship. This newly leased facility will contain office space, warehouse space, electronics shop space, hazardous material storage, outside parking, a wareyard, and a guaranteed berth for Okeanos Explorer with ship utilities and fendering. The homeporting will create an estimated 31 permanent jobs from NOAA as well as 24 construction jobs.
Okeanos Explorer has been uniquely outfitted to conduct ocean exploration missions for NOAA Research in partnership with the University of Rhode Island.
Known as “America’s ship for ocean exploration,†the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer is a new type of research vessel. The ship will travel around the globe to map the seafloor and characterize largely unknown areas of the ocean. Interesting seafloor features can be discovered with the deep water multibeam sonar mapping system. Sites can be further explored with the ship’s remotely operated vehicle or ROV, which can travel down to a depth of 6,000 meters. Images and high-definition video from the underwater vehicles will be sent from the vehicle to the ship to the shore in real-time using a technology called “telepresence.†The ship’s V-SAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite communications system is able to send this information through Internet2, a high-speed internet connection commonly used by universities.
The newly awarded 10-year lease includes one five-year option. The facility was acquired through an advertised procurement from June to October 2008. The competition areas included Narragansett Bay and a 20 mile radius of the University of Rhode Island campus located in South Kingstown, R.I.

“I am pleased that NOAA has officially signed off on homeporting Okeanos Explorer in Rhode Island,†said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who helped secure federal funding for NOAA to convert USNS Capable, a former Navy surveillance ship, to Okeanos Explorer. “This is a good deal for the federal government and will have a positive economic impact on our state. This research vessel will provide us with fascinating new information about our oceans and help keep Rhode Island on the cutting edge of ocean exploration and marine research.”

This new facility will be an Energy Star rated facility and will be ready for occupancy in July 2010.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.
By Professional Mariner Staff