06/14/2012 12:18 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia's premier has no worries about federal commitment to new navy ships

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says he believes a contract that Irving Shipyards is negotiating with the federal government to build new navy vessels in Halifax will provide the number of jobs that's been promised.

Dexter said Thursday he isn't concerned about the negotiations, but he agrees with the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, that it's time to start cutting steel for the ships.

"I don't think there's any reasons to be concerned about the form that that is going to take," he said. "But what I would like to see, of course, is the federal government and Irving Shipyards sign an agreement as soon as possible."

Defence analysts have warned that federal austerity measures could delay delivery of Canada's next fleet of warships.

Earlier this week, Natynczyk said the navy needs to be modernized and finalizing the shipbuilding deal is vital to the military.

Federal budget documents show Arctic offshore patrol ships — the first vessels expected to be built under the deal — are being delayed, with the first vessel not expected to arrive until 2018, three years after initially promised.

But Dexter said the federal procurement process spells out how much they will spend over the 20 to 30 years of the contract.

"The form that that expenditure takes will mean work for the yard for the expected length of period of time," he added.

"Modern combat vessels are very technical, are very technology-laden vessels, so what goes into them will change over the next 30 years, there's no doubt about that. The combat systems that exist today will not be the ones that go in 25 years from now."

In October, Ottawa announced that the Irving shipyard would receive the lion's share of the $35-billion national shipbuilding procurement project. Under its $25-billion deal, the yard is slated to 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.