PASS CHRISTIAN (WLOX) -- The U.S. Navy now has a home in Pass Christian. The Navy opened its Boat Operations Branch at the Pass Harbor Wednesday. The training site is part of the Navy's Oceanographic Command headquarters at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
Pass Mayor Chipper McDermott rolled out the welcome mat for the Harbor's newest tenant.
"We look forward to a long association with you. We're proud to have you here," Mayor McDermott said.
The Navoceano will make the Pass Harbor its homeport as part of the Navy's Boat Operations Branch. A $1.8 million office and maintenance building will go up on the east side of the harbor to replace the Navy office at the Coast Guard station in Gulfport.
"After Katrina, we had lost our building and like everybody else we were going through the reconstruction state. So this was really critical for us to get a permanent home," NAVO Commanding Officer Capt. John Cousins said.
Inside the new building, military and civilian oceanographers will get vital training and hands on experience before they are deployed to survey ships around the world.
"You can imagine the complex systems that we have aboard our ships worldwide, and we have to provide detailed training to 300 people. So the small foot print that you see here for boat operations branch actually is a training ground for 300 people from Navoceano, who then fly to the ships so that the equipment and people aboard our ships are ready to go when they get there," NAVO Production Manager Barbara Reed said.
The Navy operates seven oceanographic survey ships, which map the ocean floors for Navy vessels. Two more Navy vessels will eventually dock at the Pass Harbor. The goal is to have the new Navy building complete by December.