More details have emerged about Japan's agreement to a 16 million US dollar aid package to fund the building of two new interisland ships for the Marshall Islands.
In what is the largest single Japanese aid project to the Marshall Islands, the two vessels are expected to shore up the government's domestic shipping operation, which is down to three ships to service islands scattered over 800,000 square kilometres of ocean.
A grant agreement and related documents were signed at the end of last week by Foreign Minister Phillip Muller and the Resident Representative of the Japanese aid agency, JICA, Junji Ishizuka, to move the project to the bidding and construction stage.
Mr Ishizuka says the project aims to mitigate the difficulty of inter-island accessibility, and promoting the industry and welfare of people in the outer islands.
He says if bidding and related procedures go smoothly, a new landing craft vessel and a passenger/cargo vessel will arrive in the Marshall Islands 16 months from now.