PORTLAND — Navatek LLC, a designer of ships and ocean vessels, was awarded an $8 million contract by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research to pursue new science and technology to design safer hulls and hybrid electric propulsion systems.

Navatek will work with Front Street Shipyards in Belfast, which will build the Navatek prototypes and collaborate on at-sea testing. Advancements from the science and technology research is expected to benefit all the Navy’s small craft programs.

Navatek, based in Hawaii, said the contract will allow it to add 28 employees in Portland.