MOD may shorten FRF construction with foreign work ships, increasing environmental burden

May 8, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 7 it became clear that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) is considering using both domestic work ships and work ships from abroad to conduct ground improvement work on the soft ground at the site in Henoko, Nago City, as part of construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF). As people criticize the lengthening period of FRF construction and, consequently, Futenma Air Station remaining fixed in place, the MOD is searching for methods to shorten the construction period.

Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya had an interview the same day, where he said he plans to soon submit the necessary application to the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) for approval of alterations to the FRF construction plan, intended to shorten the construction period. He said, “We are playing our part to quickly finish construction in a logical fashion, and to quickly return Futenma.”

In a report concerning ground improvement work that the MOD submitted to the National Diet, the construction period for ground reinforcement work from on the ocean is estimated to take 3 years and 8 months, and the portion to be conducted on land is expected to take 1 year and 1 month. The plan for performing the ground reinforcement method, called the sand compaction pile method, will require bringing in 11 large domestic work ships. However, according to the MOD there are a total of 15 work ships in-service domestically, so it is looking to procure work ships from abroad.

Minister Iwaya said in an interview on May 7, “We will carry out the plan as quickly as possible, and speak earnestly with Okinawa as we steadily advance construction as quickly as possible.” At a joint hearing by opposition parties in the National Diet on the same day, an MOD representative explained, “We want to thoroughly and closely investigate [procuring work ships from abroad].”

The MOD report indicates that it can adjust the planned process, which specifies not concentrating work ships in the area simultaneously, while keeping the effects to the environment such as noise, air quality, and marine life within the initial plan’s expected scope. Contrary to that claim, if the MOD shortens construction time by increasing the number of work ships, it will unavoidably cause a greater burden on the environment.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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