Irving Shipbuilding has been awarded a preliminary contract by the Canadian Government to support the Arctic offshore patrol ships (AOPS) project being implemented under the national shipbuilding procurement strategy (NSPS).

Canadian defence minister Peter MacKay said: "This strategic relationship with Canadian shipyards will help us deliver on our commitment to the Canada first defence strategy, and enable us to provide our navy with the modern ships they need to defend Canada’s interests at home and abroad."

Under the $9.3m contract, Irving Shipbuilding will perform a review of the existing Canadian-developed AOPS design and specifications and will prepare an execution strategy.

“Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on Earth and these new ships will allow the Royal Canadian Navy to enforce Canada’s northern sovereignty."

The company will deliver the strategy, which includes details of the scope and cost of the subsequent definition contracts under the AOPS project.

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Rona Ambrose, public works and government services and status of women minister said: "This is the first in a series of contracts leading to the delivery of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy."

The NSPS will ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard have the equipment to carry out missions when needed.

"Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on Earth and these new ships will allow the Royal Canadian Navy to enforce Canada’s northern sovereignty," MacKay added.

The AOPS will enable the Royal Canadian Navy to operate in offshore environments all through the year, while supporting missions including domestic surveillance, search and rescue, and supporting other government departments.

The country will also use the Arctic offshore patrol ships to carry out armed seaborne surveillance missions in Canada’s economic exclusion zone, including in the Arctic.