2011-12-26 (China Military News cited from China Daily and by Li Xiaokun) — After spending months escorting vessels in the Gulf of Aden, Wang Hongmin found it no surprise that China plays a leading role ensuring ships from around the globe safely navigate pirate-plagued waters.
“The Chinese escort fleet is very reliable in terms of escort missions,” he said. “I mean, since many navies choose to patrol certain waters, the Chinese are accompanying the vessels exactly from site A to B, and then back from B to A, like a nanny who doesn’t go a step away.”
Wang spoke to China Daily on the eve of Monday’s third anniversary of China sending escort fleets to the Gulf of Aden.
According to the Ministry of Defense, Chinese forces have escorted more than 4,300 Chinese and foreign ships in the gulf, and all missions were completed successfully.
A former captain of the missile frigate Xuzhou, one of China’s most advanced vessels of its type, Wang led his crew as part of the third and seventh escort fleets that Beijing sent to waters off Somalia in 2009 and 2010-2011.
In the latter mission, his crew “fortunately” – as Wang put it – became the first group of Chinese servicemen to militarily engage with confirmed pirates.
Theirs also was the first Chinese navy ship to escort a large number of overseas Chinese citizens on the start of their journey home from Libya when Muammar Gaddafi’s government started to collapse.
A bold attack
Their fight with the pirates “came at noon on Nov 13 last year, when we were escorting the 275th group of ships that China took charge of,” Wang said. Suddenly, they received signals for help from a vessel in the convoy, which was stretched across at least 10 km.
Soon, a pirate boat was detected advancing at high speed toward the vessel team and firing at one ship. Pirates threw a rope ladder onto it.
“We all found it unbelievable at that time,” Wang said. “The pirates have become so fierce. How dare they rob a ship under the eyes of a warship?”
The Xuzhou and Chinese helicopters fired intensively at the pirate vessel until the pirates, unhurt, surrendered. Then the Chinese forces returned to the escort mission.