The federal government has officially launched a search for a third shipyard to join a massive naval procurement process.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the new shipyard will join Irving Shipbuilding and Seaspan Shipyards and be responsible for building six new icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.

The government's announcement did not include a timeline beyond a 15-day deadline for interested companies file paperwork to be considered.

Speaking in Iqaluit on Friday, Wilkinson said the third shipyard will be selected through a competitive process.

The launch of the formal procurement process is the latest development in the national shipbuilding strategy, a long-term procurement program that includes the construction of new warships and coast guard vessels with a price tag in the tens of billions.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in May that the government would add a third shipyard, it sparked speculation the contract would eventually go to Quebec-based Chantier Davie and chatter of Liberals trying to shore up electoral support in the province.

Then last month, the government announced that $1.5 billion in contracts to maintain Canada's current warships would be split between Irving, Seaspan and Davie.

At the time, Davie expressed confidence it would become the third shipyard to join the shipbuilding strategy, though they wanted the Liberals to make a decision before the federal election in October.