The nineteenth Chinese naval anti-piracy task group has departed China for the Gulf of Aden as China continues with maritime patrols in the region.
Xinhua reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) task force left the coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong Province on December 2. It comprises the missile frigates Linyi and Weifang, as well as supply ship Weishanhu, with two helicopters and more than 700 troops. It is the first time that two frigates are being used for such maritime security patrols.
Xinhua noted that China sent its first convoy fleet to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters in December 2008. The previous 18 fleets have escorted more than 5 800 Chinese and foreign vessels and successfully rescued or aided more than 60 ships.
Since the first task force arrived off East Africa in January 2009, Chinese navy task forces have been typically rotated every four months.
The 18th PLAN escort task force, which the most recent force will replace, set sail for East Africa at the beginning of August. It comprises the amphibious dock landing ship Changbaishan, the guided missile frigate Yuncheng and the supply ship Chaohu Lake. The task force also includes three helicopters and 100 special operations members.
Chinese anti-piracy task forces visit ports in the region, such as in Djibouti, Oman and Yemen, to take on supplies but have also embarked on friendly visits to countries in the area. Earlier this year the 16th escort task group visited eight African countries, including South Africa, after concluding its anti-piracy duties.