As the Japan Coast Guard continues to lose its ability to effectively patrol and work in other parts of Japan due to repeated entries into territorial waters by Chinese ships near the Senkaku Islands, a new plan has come about that involves using older, end-of-life patrol vessels with retired guardsmen. As China maintains its claims to the uninhabited islands, calling them Diaoyu, a senior coast guard official says they cannot continue the same pattern of incursions over the long-term.
As of March 2012, the Japan Coast Guard employed 12,671 guardsmen, an increase of 420 from 10 years earlier, along with 121 patrol ships, a decrease of three. While the government makes efforts to introduce new vessels and improve the abilities of the coast guard to maintain maritime security, progress has been slow. While the coast guard has 51 patrol ships that are 1,000 tons or more, China already has 40 such vessels, and is making progress on converting old warships for use in patrols, in addition to building new ones. The concern for Japan is that China may quickly overtake its coast guard in the numbers of large-scale ships patrolling the East China Sea.
Under the fiscal 2013 budget, the Japan Coast Guard will be requesting 150 new personnel and the construction of four new patrol ships. As staff training takes between one and five years, and shipbuilding from three to four years, one official says they “stopgap measures” now. The new plan would involve the use of 10 patrol ships that are past their 25 year service lives and due to be scrapped, and then staffing them with reemployed personnel that have retired.[via Jiji Press]