Ottawa has signed a $288-million contract for the design of new Arctic offshore patrol ships as part of its shipbuilding procurement project.
The contract with Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax was announced Thursday by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.
Neither MacKay and Ambrose would say how many Arctic patrol ships would be built under the deal.
The contract is expected to support up to 200 jobs.
Ambrose says the design contract will ensure that construction of the ships can begin once the build contract is signed.
Construction of the vessels is expected to begin in 2015.
In October 2011, the federal government awarded the Irving shipyard in Halifax a $25-billion deal to build 21 combat vessels in all.