Japan is considering a possibility to work out a new type of vessels to connect it with Sakhalin and the Kuriles (united in Russia's only island administrative division with center in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) instead of using charters.
The government has allocated 25 million yens (about $220,000) for research in order to prepare the project already this year, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Tuesday.
At present Sakhalin and Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido (separated by the La Perouse Straits with a minimal width of 43 km) are connected by ships the state leases from private companies. They are old and often cause passengers to complain.
About 1,500 Japanese annually visit Sakhalin and the South Kuriles as part of visa-free exchange to visit graves of their ancestors and places of their former abode (before the end of the Second World War South Sakhalin and the Kuriles belonged to Japan).
In May-October, in the high tourist season, the demand for tickets is the highest and the government has often received requests from former residents of the South Kuriles to develop new specialized vessels.
The government has decided to work out new types of ships to use for visa-free exchanges, the newspaper writes.