China to rotate ships on Africa station


China’s navy will renew an anti-piracy mission to the Gulf of Aden when the current commitment expires in the coming months, a naval top officer has told state media in Beijing.

The Associated Press reports China’s three-ship anti-piracy flotilla took up its duties off the Somali coast in January on a four-month mission and new ships will be sent to take over in late April or in early May.

The China Daily newspaper quoted navy deputy chief of staff, Rear Adm. Zhang Deshun, as saying the mission has thus far been “an unqualified success”. He added China was prepared for a lengthy commitment.

Zhang added new ships and personnel were prepared to take over, but some staff from the original mission would stay on to ensure continuity.

“We feel this is not a short mission. The length of the mission depends on the Somali political situation and whether Somali pirates can be eventually kept away,” Zhang said.

The anti-piracy assignment marks the first-ever blue-water combat mission for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, as it is formally known, as well as an unprecedented degree of cooperation with navies from the United States, Britain, and other countries contributing ships to the anti-piracy flotilla.

The China Daily said the three ships in the flotilla – the destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, and a supply ship, Weishanhu – have completed 110 patrols without incident.

Xinhua meanwhile reports Japan is to send two Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) destroyers on a similar anti-piracy mission later this week.

According to the plan submitted to a meeting of the ruling parties’ anti-piracy project team, the 4,650-ton Sazanami and 4,550-ton Samidare of the 8th Escort Division of the 4th Escort Flotillaare scheduled to leave their base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, and arrived at the Gulf of Aden in two to three weeks.

Under the maritime policing provision, the MSDF will protect only Japan-related vessels, including Japanese-registered ships and foreign vessels with Japanese nationals or shipments aboard.