Chinese naval escort returns from pirate patrol


China’s eighth naval escort flotilla has returned home after a 189-day mission in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters. The flotilla escorted 507 vessels during its patrol.

The eighth People’s Liberation Army Navy escort flotilla, including the missile frigates Ma’anshan and Wenzhou, departed China on February 21 and arrived at a naval base in eastern China’s Zhoushan Islands on Sunday. Apart from escorting 507 vessels during its six-month tour of duty, the flotilla also rendered assistance to two foreign ships, Xinhua reports.

On its return journey, the group also visited Qatar and Thailand. The escort group has been replaced by the ninth anti-piracy patrol group, which left for the Gulf of Aden on July 2. The new task force comprises the Type 052B destroyer Wuhan, and the Type 054A frigate Yulin, as well as the supply ship Qinghaihu. The ninth task force group carries a total of 878 seamen and officers on board, including dozens of Marines.

China sent its first convoy fleet to the Gulf of Aden in December 2008. Chinese navy fleets have escorted more than 4 000 ships from countries all over the world and rescued 40 ships attacked by pirates.

Piracy is a big problem in the Gulf of Aden as Somali pirates prey on ships sailing in the waters off the lawless horn of Africa country, raking in millions of dollars in ransoms and driving up shipping costs. Maritime piracy costs the global economy US$12 billion a year according to researchers.

As of August 18, pirates have hijacked 31 vessels out of 314 attempts this year. Somali pirates have been responsible for 22 of those successful hijackings and are currently holding 18 vessels and 335 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

China is one of many nations to maintain anti-piracy patrols. For instance, since 2009, South Korea has deployed a destroyer with some 300 troops in the Gulf of Aden to patrol pirate-infested waters off the African nation under the multinational campaign.

Yesterday Russia’s Pacific Fleet sent a fleet of ships to the Gulf of Aden, according to Itar-Tass. The flotilla is the sixth to participate in international anti-piracy efforts since 2009. The flotilla includes the Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Penteleyev, a supply vessel and rescue tugboat, as well as a unit of marines.