The Japanese coast guard will be receiving upgraded vessels and equipment one year earlier than initially planned. This is after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda‘s cabinet approved an accelerated plan for 17 billion yen ($213,460,500 U.S. dollars) worth of boats, helicopters, and equipment, which was originally intended to be included in the budget plan for the next fiscal year.
The Japanese coast guard fleet is currently outdated and too small to operate efficiently and to catch up with other vessels that have more up-to-date technology. According to Coast Guard’s Budget Office official Shuji Kondo, ships must be able to operate smoothly in harsh conditions and must support helicopter operations in order to be effective. Very few ships currently qualify, as majority of them were built during the 1970′s and 1980′s and lack the speed and instruments of modern vessels. This new budget will be the biggest disbursement of special funds for the Coast Guard and the first to be directed for territorial water patrol. The money will be used for purchasing for 1000-ton patrol vessels, three 30-meter long patrol boats.
Mr. Kondo also said that the accelerated budget changes were made because of changes in the territorial water patrol situation. While not being specific, this seems to refer to the territorial spat between Japan and China over a group of islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Ties between the two countries have worsened when the Japanese government bought three of the five islands last September. Since then, an increasing number of fishing boats and patrol ships have been spotted cruising the area, while the Japanese Coast Guard is having trouble keeping up with them because of obsolete ships and instruments.[ via Wall Street Journal ]