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Federal government to add up to 18 new Coast Guard ships, costing $15.7 billion

The federal government announced Wednesday that it's prepared to spend an estimated $15.7 billion to build as many as 18 new Canadian Coast Guard ships.

The Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier provides an escort for vessels in the Beaufort Sea off Cape Bathurst, Northwest Territories. Jonathan Delisle/Environment and Climate Change Canada photo

Up to 16 of the ships will be multi-purpose vessels capable of light ice-breaking and able to respond to environmental emergencies and search-and-rescue missions. Two of the ships will be used for Arctic and offshore patrols.

The Coast Guard's 18 existing ships are getting close to the end of their service lives. The agency also has a fleet of six helicopters and employs 1,400 people.

The new vessels will be built in Vancouver and Halifax and at a third shipyard to be determined later.