Japan's Coast Guard mulls building its largest patrol ship

NHK has learned that Japan Coast Guard officials are considering constructing a new patrol vessel that is much larger than any they have ever had.

Sources close to the matter say the vessel would be capable of carrying dozens of high-speed rubber boats, as well as three helicopters.

They say the vessel is planned to include capabilities for commanding other patrol ships, serving as a maritime base during missions.

The sources say Coast Guard officials are considering using the vessel for operations around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, for transporting residents in the event of an emergency, and for disaster-response operations, among other missions.

They say the vessel is planned to have numerous rubber boats in case that it needs to respond to a larger number of ships than the Coast Guard's patrol vessels during a mission.

The Coast Guard put aside tens of millions of yen, or hundreds of thousands dollars, in its budget for fiscal 2023 to have a private firm study the vessel's basic structure before a blueprint is drawn up. The Coast Guard received a report from the firm in March.

Under the current plan, the new vessel would be 200 meters long and about 30,000 tons. This would be three to four times larger than the biggest patrol ship the Coast Guard currently has.

The sources say Coast Guard officials are also considering designing the vessel to accommodate up to 1,500 passengers, as well as containers.

They say the Coast Guard aims to put the vessel into use sometime in fiscal 2029, and there is a plan to add a vessel of the same type in the future.

The Coast Guard told NHK that it cannot comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, some Coast Guard members have questioned whether the vessel will ever be put to full use because of a chronic labor shortage. Others have expressed concern that the move could provoke China.