Yards get more timeCanada has extended the deadline for four shipyards to submit bids for a massive $35bn newbuilding programme.

Irving Shipbuilding, Seaway Marine, Victoria Shipyards and Davie Yards now have until 21 July – an extra two weeks – to file their papers.

Davie Yards

But the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) secretariat rejected a request for a two-month extension of the previous 7 July cut-off, saying it would "be unacceptable, as it would have significant and unacceptable impacts."

The government said the two-week extension is "the maximum flexibility available to Canada without incurring costs and/or causing unacceptable impact on the NSPS program."

The two biggest candidates, Irving's Halifax Shipyards and Seaspan Marine’s Victoria, had opposed the extension.

Davie, which filed for bankruptcy last year, is relying on a takeover bid from Italy’s Fincantieri to allow it to meet the bidding criteria.

One winner will be awarded the $25bn combat vessel construction deal, while another will secure at least $8bn of non-combat ships, plus more coast guard orders to come, all over 30 years.

Losing shipyards may bid on an estimated $2bn in construction work for smaller, non-combat ships.

Mary Keith, spokeswoman for Irving, said she was disappointed that the government had decided to grant any extension.

"We've worked extremely hard and we've invested thousands of hours and significant financial resources to prepare the bid in compliance with a deadline that was established over a year ago," she added.

"We were ready for the 7 July deadline, we did not need an extension and although we feel the extension was unwarranted, we're going to continue our focus on submitting our bid in accordance with the new deadline."

By Gary Dixon in London – Tradewinds