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UPDATED: November 2, 2013 NO. 32 AUGUST 8, 2013
Commitment to Peace
Chinese navy conducts anti-piracy escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia
By Pan Xiaoqiao, photos by Wang Changsong

WEAPON SHOW: Children from Elizabeth Orphanage in Seychelles examine weapons onboard the Harbin when Chinese escort warships called at the country's port of Victoria on June 16-20

MILITARY TALK: Chinese and EU escort task forces communicate on escort issues

Like Zeng, everyone onboard the three vessels is fully aware of the huge responsibility on their shoulders. After more than four years of anti-piracy operations in these waters, relevant experience is accumulating with each passing day. However, this is never referred to as an excuse for anyone to relax.

Special forces training focuses on rescue of hijacked vessels, according to Captain Wang Qiang, chief of the commanding group of the task force. Drills involve fast rope insertion from helicopter, searching cabin compartments and live fire exercises.

Joint efforts

The Gulf of Aden and waters off Somlali cover a vast area, and thus a single country's naval power is impossible to cope with frequent piracy activities. Currently there are around 40 warships patrolling there. They are from more than 20 countries such as China, Russia, India and Japan as well as the three international organizations of EU (CTF 465), NATO (CTF 508) and Combined Maritime Forces (CTF 151).

In the face of the common threat of pirate harassment, the Chinese escort task group is engaged in various forms of extensive cooperation with other task groups, such as boarding visits by commanders, operation coordination and information sharing as well as joint escorts and training operations.

Since January 2012, China, India and Japan have adjusted escort schedules on a quarterly basis and optimized the available assets of their independent deployments, thereby enhancing escort efficiency.

Escorting UN World Food Program vessels was once the job of CTF 465, but since early 2011, the Chinese escort force answered the organization's requests to escort food-delivering vessels due to its escort task group's shortage of available warships.

In late July, the CNS Harbin voluntarily offered to support the escort of UN humanitarian relief ship MV Princess K from the south Red Sea to the northeast of the Horn of Africa, where it passed the duties to the ITS Zeffiro of the EU task force. In his letter of thanks to the Harbin, Commodore Jorge Novo Palma praised this action as "another achievement to strengthen the existing close cooperation" between Chinese and EU escort task groups.

EU naval forces set up a website named Mercury in December 2008 to facilitate information sharing among naval escort forces. When the first Chinese naval escort group arrived in the Gulf of Aden in early 2009, its e-mail address and international maritime satellite telephone service number were announced to other naval forces. Successive Chinese escort task forces have used the website to share its schedules and requirements.

In a recent escort journey, the Italian merchant vessel Altinia had to stop for engine repairs. Unfortunately, the Harbin had to take care of another four ships that could not be delayed. The Harbin posted this information on Mercury, hoping that warships patrolling nearby would help guard the Altinia. The EU task force contacted the FGS Augburg, patrolling only 40 nautical miles away, and a helicopter was over the Altinia in 30 minutes.

The Chinese navy will patrol and conduct escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, in joint efforts with other naval forces, as long as necessary to secure the sea line of communications for its own merchant ships and meanwhile continue to offer assistance to foreign merchant vessels and humanitarian shipments, in order to fulfill its international obligation as a responsible country in the world, said naval sources.

Email us at: panxiaoqiao@bjreview.com

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