Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard
(Brendan Cavanaugh/Baltimore Sun)

The U.S. Coast Guard's shipyard in Curtis Bay has signed an agreement to provide ship maintenance over the next five years for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic fleet.

The new memorandum of understanding, announced Tuesday by Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office, extends an existing partnership between the Coast Guard and the NOAA, which studies changes in the environment for the federal government.


Under the agreement, the NOAA said it expects to send at least one of its nine Atlantic ships to the yard per year for maintenance, though the agency may also contract with private-sector shipyards if the work would be less expensive.

Mikulski said in a statement that the deal would support the Curtis Bay shipyard's 600 military and civilian jobs. The yard has maintained Coast Guard ships since 1899.

"A world-class science fleet needs world-class maintenance services," Mikulski said in a statement. "This new agreement is a one-two punch for Maryland, supporting jobs today at Curtis Bay and jobs tomorrow in Maryland's coastal economies."

Coast Guard Cmdr. Matthew Lake, who runs operations at the shipyard, said the new deal will help the two agencies tap into "synergies" between their operations, and add to the shipyard's impact on the regional economy.

The first NOAA ship, due into Curtis Bay in March, is the Ferdinand R. Hassler, a coastal mapping vessel, Lake said. The Coast Guard's work on the ship will be about a $1 million job that will support 15 to 20 jobs on the yard, Lake said.

"It's got some other positive impacts in the local economy as well, because there are other contracting services like tugs and cranes," he said.

The deal strengthens the NOAA's partnership with the Coast Guard, making effective use of the federal government's assets, said Kathryn Sullivan, the NOAA's administrator and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

Mikulski, a longtime supporter of the Curtis Bay yard, said under the deal, the 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."

Mikulski also is seeking $49 million in funding for the Curtis Bay yard in a pending 2015 Department of Homeland Security spending bill — a $28 million increase over 2014 levels that Mikulski has said is necessary to prevent a reduction in the Curtis Bay workforce.

Earlier this summer, the bill passed with bipartisan support out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Mikulski chairs. However, it remains in limbo.