Chinese Navy escorts Somali food shipments


In a historic landmark move, a Chinese navy warship has escorted a United Nations ship carrying food aid to Somalia for the first time, the European Naval Force says.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 054 class missile frigate Ma’anshan escorted the World Food Programme (WFP) ship Amina from Berbera in Somaliland to Bosasso in northerm Somalia between 22 and 25 March.

On February 15, the commander of the Chinese Force (CTF-529) met with the commander of the European Union Naval Force aboard the Spanish frigate Canarias and agreed to exchange information and coordination for escorting merchant ships carrying WFP aid, EU Navfor said.
“The results of this mutual understanding between the Chinese Forces and EUNavfor have resulted in the first historical WFP escort by a Chinese naval warship,” spokesman Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy said. “This is evidence of good coordination and cooperation with one of the many partners in the fight against piracy.”

Over the weekend, commander of NATO maritime forces conducting anti-piracy operation Ocean Shield, Commodore Michiel Hijmans of the Royal Netherlands Navy, welcomed his Chinese counterpart Commodore Han Xiaoh aboard the HNLMS Tromp in the Gulf of Aden.

Xiaoh said he would be very happy to continue the relationship with NATO maritime forces and keep on working to ensure safety in the sea lanes.
“I am delighted that NATO is building on what we had already established with the Chinese Navy,” Hijmans said. “The contribution of all navies in the region is vital to keep a grip on the enormous area we have to cover and the numerous pirate vessels that are causing so much havoc. As long as we keep working together maritime forces stand a chance of keeping the pirates at bay.”

The WFP said the Ma’anshan showed a high level of professionalism during the operation.

The main mission of EU Navfor’s Oprational Atalanta off the Somali coast is to escort WFP ships carrying humanitarian aid and ships of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as protecting shipping from piracy. EU Navfor also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia. Since the naval escort system began in November 2007, no ship loaded with WFP food heading to Somalia has been hijacked. Ninety percent of WFP food for Somalia arrives by sea.

FFG 525 is part of the eight Chinese naval escort fleet, which comprises the Ma’anshan and missile frigate Wenzhou. They departed China on February 21 for the Gulf of Aden to protect merchant shipping, Xinhua reports.

After arriving the ships were joined by Qiandaohu, a supply ship patrolling with the seventh escort fleet.

China sent its first convoy fleet to the Gulf of Aden in December 2008. As of February, the seven convoy fleets have escorted more than 3 400 Chinese and foreign ships and have rescued 33 vessels from pirate attacks, Xinhua reports.

Ma’anshan was commissioned in 2005. The vessel has a flight deck for a helicopter and is armed with anti-ship and surface to air missiles as well as a 100 mm gun and four six-barrel 30 mm guns for short-range engagements.