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Japan's shipbuilders jump at prospect of first hospital ship

Lobbying frenzy underscores industry's dearth of global orders

U.S. hospital ship Mercy has supported America's coronavirus response. The ship was invited to Tokyo in 2018 so Japanese officials could study the vessel. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

TOKYO -- Japan's major shipbuilders have been maneuvering behind the scenes to win a contract to build the country's first hospital ship as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to create a shortage of patient beds on land.

Japan inched closer to commissioning a hospital ship, earmarking 70 million yen ($655,000) for a feasibility study in a broader supplementary budget passed last week. Shipbuilding companies have stepped up lobbying efforts to build the ships since March.

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