The federal government has signed a $9.3-million deal with Irving Shipbuilding to get started on the navy shipbuilding contract in Halifax.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the contract will allow the shipbuilding company to review the design and devise a construction plan for the Arctic offshore patrol ships.
Those are the first vessels expected to be built under the overall $35-billion national shipbuilding procurement project.
In October, Ottawa announced that the Irving shipyard would receive the lion's share of the project.
Under its $25-billion deal, Irving will build 21 combat vessels.
The Seaspan Marine Corp. shipyard in Vancouver will construct seven vessels under an $8-billion contract for non-combat ships.
Another $2 billion for smaller vessels is yet to be allocated to another shipyard.