The federal government has signed a definition contract with Irving Shipbuilding for the Arctic/Offshore patrol ships project. The contract, which falls under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, follows an ancillary agreement announced in July 2012, and it will be followed by a construction contract in 2015.

The government says definition contract is divided into seven work packages that could be awarded to Irving, valued at an estimated $288 million, and expects the Halifax shipyard to refine and complete the AOPS design to production level in order to begin construction in 2015. At the same time, work will begin on improving and upgrading the Irving Shipyard.

The government is also emphasizing its Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan, intended to help regional businesses “address challenges such as innovation capacity, certifications and workforce skills so they can prepare themselves to compete as suppliers or sub-contractors” for work offered by Irving as well as for other marine and defence initiatives.