ZHANJIANG, Guangdong Province, March 31 (Xinhua) -- A
second group of Chinese navy escort ships will set sail for the Gulf of Aden
Thursday to replace a flotilla sent earlier to guard against pirates.
The new task force will comprise the destroyer,
Shenzhen, and frigate Huangshan, as well as the supply ship, Weishanhu, which
served in the first escort mission.
With two helicopters and total crew exceeding 800,
including navy special forces, it is mainly tasked with ensuring the safety of
Chinese vessels passing through the gulf and waters off Somalia and those of
international organizations like the World Food Program shipping humanitarian
The flotilla will traverse 4,600 nautical miles,
passing the Xisha and Nansha Islands, the Singapore Strait, the Strait of
Malacca and the Indian Ocean before it arrives in the Gulf of Aden.
China initiated its three-ship escort task force on
Dec. 26 last year after the United Nations Security Council called on countries
to patrol gulf and waters off Somalia, one of the world's busiest marine routes,
where surging piracy endangered intercontinental shipping.
The ships had escorted 104 vessels and rescued three
foreign merchant ships from pirate attacks, Huang Jiaxiang, political commissar
of the Navy's South China Sea Fleet, said in a March 11 interview.
About 20 percent of Chinese merchant ships passing
through the waters off Somalia were attacked by pirates from January to November
in 2008, before the task force was deployed.
A total of seven ships, either owned by China or
carrying Chinese cargo and crew, were hijacked.
Tianyu No. 8, a Chinese
fishing vessel with 16 Chinese and eight foreign sailors aboard, was
captured by Somali pirates on Nov. 14 last year and released in early February.