WARSAW, Poland — Romania‘s Ministry of Defence has kick-started the much-awaited procedure to buy four new corvettes for its Navy to boost its presence in the Black Sea.

Under the plan, the first vessel will be built within a maximum period of three years. The entire procurement is to be completed within seven years, according to released documentation.

The procurement is divided into three stages: qualification, dialog and evaluation of the submitted offers.

“The qualification stage will take place over a period of 56 calendar days following the publication date of the call for participation,” according to the documentation, which is dated Feb. 26, 2018.

The vessel is to be enabled with a displacement of at least 1,600 tons. The acquisition is estimated to be worth €1.6 billion (U.S. $2 billion).

Romanian Defence Minister Mihai Fifor said the planned offset agreement is to be used to modernize two Type 22 Broadsword-class frigates operated by the country’s Navy.

“We want to return to the domestic defense industry as much of the 2 percent [of the gross domestic product spent annually on the military] as possible,” Fifor told local news agency Agerpres.

A bill to acquire the corvettes was approved in February by the country’s parliament. The legislation states that the selected contractor must own a shipyard in Romania, which is located “on the Black Sea and/or on the Danube river” shore, and it must be operated by an entity based in an European Union or NATO member state. This means that the only admissible participant of the procurement is Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group, which owns a facility in Galati, in eastern Romania.

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