The government will make a full-fledged start on the construction of an ice-breaking research vessel in order to proceed with observational activities in the Arctic Ocean from next fiscal year, the Sankei Shimbun learned on Dec. 12. It will earmark well over 400 million yen in the fiscal 2021 budget and spend a total of 33.5 billion yen over the next five years. China has made an earlier start than Japan on conducting surveys of the Arctic Ocean, and government’s plan is aimed at keeping China in check and strengthening Japan’s presence in the Northern Sea routes, which are becoming increasingly important sea lanes.
The planned vessel will be equipped with leading-edge devices, including an undersea drone to observe sea ice and conduct acoustic exploration. The vessel will predict the distribution and movement of sea ice by gathering data and thereby ensure safe navigation in sea ice areas. (Abridged)