01/12/2013 15:29 EST | Updated 03/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Ottawa delivers hope for better boat building bidding

The federal government says it's prepared to change the way it awards small vessel shipbuilding contracts, responding to concerns raised by the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association.

Two years ago Nova Scotia boat builders complained to Ottawa that the rules make it difficult for them to compete. They've been vying for a streamlined bidding process for federal ship building work.

At stake are contracts to build hundreds of small vessels under 24 metres.

The boat builders asked the federal government's Public Works department for changes, like allowing companies to pre-qualify for projects.

"[The requirements] for a small boat are almost as onerous as if you are preparing a bid package for a naval frigate," said Tim Edwards, executive director of the Nova Scotia Boat Builders Association.

He said Ottawa's rules are too costly and needlessly cumbersome.

On Friday Public Works Canada responded to concerns raised by Nova Scotia yards. It released a survey showing those concerns are shared nationwide.

The industry is seeking greater standardization, clarity and more time to respond to bid opportunities.

Ottawa is promising changes to its evaluation practices, but said it wants more consultation.

At Canadian Maritime Engineering outside Sambro, manager Jamie Nicholson said he hopes the yard could expand from repairs to construction.

"It's something that we can do, but we haven't had the opportunity yet."

Boat builders said they expect to meet the director general in Halifax to discuss their concerns within the month.

The industry employs around 1,300 people in coastal Nova Scotia.