Canada has begun construction of new mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coastguard, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay has said.

Under the $194m contract awarded in September 2009, Irving Shipbuilding will build nine new mid-shore patrol vessels.

The new vessels will help in maintaining an effective fleet of federal ships by replacing the existing seven vessels, and also enhance the security of coasts and waterways in the future.

The five new vessels will be used to support Oceans Canada conservation and protection programmes in the Maritimes, Quebec and Pacific Regions.

The other four vessels will be used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enhance the maritime security along the Great Lakes and St Lawrence seaway system.

The first vessel will be operational in 2011, with the rest scheduled to be delivered by 2013.