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The design for the Canadian Navy’s new joint support ships (JSS) could be selected by the end of 2011, but them being operational is uncertain since the $2.6bn contract is yet to be signed.

Canadian Defence Department procurement official Ian Mack said the navy would have to decide when the ships would become operational after their delivery.

“I think suggesting we’ll have this capability in the water by 2017-2018 is accurate”, he said.

The JSS will replace the existing 40-year-old ships and will be used to supply fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food, and water to warships at sea, according to the Gazette.

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The ships will also provide a base for the maintenance and operation of helicopters, a limited sealift capability and logistics support to forces deployed ashore.

The ships were originally scheduled to be delivered by 2012 but were postponed when the previous bids submitted by shipyards were rejected in 2008.