Chinese naval training ship Zheng He arrived in Sydney Harbor on Wednesday for a four-day stop as part of its latest training exchange and goodwill voyage for 68 days.
The voyage has already taken the ship to Indonesia. After visiting Australia, the ship will head to New Zealand and make a brief stop in Fiji before returning home.
A crowd of more than 200 well-wishers, top officials and navy personnel from both sides welcomed the Chinese vessel as it docked at Sydney's Garden Island naval base.
Chinese Consul General in Sydney Gu Xiaojie greeted the crew of Zheng He, together with the Royal Australian Navy's Commodore Warfare Malcolm Wise. An Australian naval band played at the head of a line of well-wishers waving Chinese and Australian flags.
Commander Yan Zhenming, who is leading the voyage of the high-seas-faring Chinese vessel named after the famous Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) explorer and fleet admiral, said the Sydney leg is part of a long-term training and global goodwill exchange program of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy.
"One of our objectives is to allow our crew to experience the open seas and training in them. The friendship-building exchanges we have with other countries is also an important aspect of our trips," Yan said.
The Zheng He training ship, built in the late 1980s, has made extensive long-distance voyages in the past three decades. It set sail from Lushun Harbor in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning province on Oct. 24 for its latest journey.
The whole voyage is expected to cover 16,000 nautical miles, carrying 349 crew on board - including 169 trainees, of whom 17 are women. Two foreign trainees, from Australia and New Zealand, are also training with the Chinese crew.
"Naval exchanges like these are crucial for helping us understand better and develop ties with others," Yan said.
The Chinese ship and its crew are set to host an evening reception on its deck for representatives from both sides on Friday, before setting sail from Sydney on Nov. 27 for its next stop.