Navy ensures navigation in a sea of danger

Updated: 2011-12-26 09:19

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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Navy ensures navigation in a sea of danger

Crew members on a Chinese commercial ship spread a national flag to show their gratitude for the navy's escort. [Yu Jingjun / for China Daily]

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.

"But we did not stop at that," Wang said. "Later we had a meeting to discuss why the incident happened."

They agreed on two reasons: First, the Chinese navy was restrained to the pirates and would not attack them as some navies do as long as the pirates do not disturb the commercial vessels.

Second, "There are too many foreign ships applying for Chinese escort, even when they have to wait for another few days or leave the waters suggested by international escort forces as a secure area."

As long as China maintains its policy of not attacking pirates if their identities are not confirmed, Wang and his colleagues needed another countermeasure. They decided they would not allow unaffiliated ships to pass through those under their protection, and they moved the naval ships to both wings of the vessel team instead of ahead and behind.

The toughest time, he said, was when they waited for 39 days for diplomatic efforts to unfold to secure and escort a ship that had been hijacked by pirates. "We were just waiting there, with no resupply. In the end we almost ran out of food." The ship and its crew were released safely.