The Chinese navy rescued a Panamanian merchant ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden over the weekend, the second time it has helped a vessel under threat this month.
The Frigate Hengyang from China's 25th convoy fleet sent by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy to the Gulf of Aden rushed to the hijacked ship ALHEERA, after receiving reports that it was under attack at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Hengyang's helicopters reached the ship one hour later and drove the five pirates away, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.
The ALHEERA is now safely continuing its journey.
On April 9, the Frigate Yulin escorted Tuvalu's OS35 cargo ship to safe waters off Yemen's Port of Aden, China's National Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.
The OS35 cargo ship was hijacked by pirates on April 8, and a group of 16 Chinese special operations troops from the Yulin boarded the OS35 and rescued the 19 crew members the following day.
After being escorted by the Yulin for two days and nights, the OS35 arrived in safe waters near the pilot station of Yemen's Port of Aden, the ministry said.
This operation reflects the highly effective performance of the Chinese navy in fighting piracy, which is an example of China performing its duties, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press briefing.
"Two ships being attacked by pirates inside two weeks shows that piracy around Somalia is getting worse again," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.
After the UN started joint escort missions in 2008, many countries put much effort into countering piracy in the region, but there has been a resurgence in recent years due to the unstable domestic situation in Somalia and because some countries had reduced their involvement in the escort missions, Li said.
Piracy is also increasing in other maritime areas, like the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, Li added.
"The anti-piracy mission shows that China, as a responsible power, is capable of safeguarding regional safety and performing its international duties," Zhang Junshe, a captain and research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times.
China has sent 26 convoy fleets to the Gulf of Aden since it started escort missions against Somali pirates in 2008. It has escorted more than 6,000 ships passing through pirate-infested waters, half of which were foreign merchant ships and ships of international organizations, Zhang said.
The UN escort mission is a historic opportunity for the PLA navy to go to the Indian Ocean and make its presence in the region not only for counter-piracy but also to guard strategic sea routes, Li said.
"This is preparation for the 21st Maritime Silk Road, and the escort missions and the PLA navy's presence will make the sea lanes safer," Li said.
"The PLA navy's capabilities have been comprehensively improved, because counter-piracy missions will improve non-combat capabilities, including search and rescue. And the capabilities of the crew members will also be improved," Li said.
The Chinese navy's increasing capabilities in coastal missions is "a good thing" to safeguard global peace, Zhang noted, adding that there are now about 30 military ships from more than 20 countries involved in the escort missions in the Gulf of Aden.
The 26th convoy fleet sailed to the Port of Aden on April 1 from Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province. It is composed of two missile destroyers, a supply ship and helicopters, the China News Agency reported.
After starting the anti-piracy mission in the waters around Somalia in 2008, it was "the first time that China deployed warships far from its coastline to protect the nation's strategic interests," the Xinhua News Agency quoted former commander Wu Shengli as saying.