A Chinese missile destroyer Wuhan (R) escorts Taiwan merchant vessel Yushan through Somali waters January 12, 2009. This is the second escort mission conducted by the Chinese navy at the anti-piracy mission area. The Chinese naval fleet of two destroyers and a supply vessel have been patrolling the Somali waters for the past week and offered to escort ships from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan on request. [Xinhua]
The Chinese navy Monday escorted a Taiwan ship through Somali waters to protect it against pirate attacks.
This is the first time that the navy has escorted a ship from the island in waters off Somalia.
Two navy destroyers and a large supply ship have been patrolling the Somali waters for the past week, and offered to escort ships from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan on request.
On its second escort duty, the navy guided four merchant vessels, the Zhenhua 13 and Zhenhua 14 from Shanghai, Yushan from Taiwan and the China-registered Filipino ship, Saga Horizon, the mission's headquarters said.
The navy began its 553-nautical-mile mission yesterday in the east estuary of Bab-el-Mandeb (or Mandeb Strait) around 11 am. Bab-el-Mandeb, which literally means, the "Gate of Tears", is where the Red Sea meets the Arabian Sea, and despite being very difficult to navigate, it is among the busiest shipping channels in the world.
Two special-force groups boarded the two Shanghai ships, one of which led the fleet and the other made up the rear, with the destroyer Wuhan sailing alongside.
The other destroyer, the Haikou, was to join the fleet when it entered "complicated waters", the headquarters said.
Mission commander, Rear Admiral Du Jingchen, said: "Ensuring a safe and secure commercial shipping channel has been the common wish of compatriots across the Taiwan Straits."
Taiwan has two of the world's leading container shipping companies, the Evergreen Marine and Yang Ming Marine, which have about 300 vessels, half of which are registered abroad.
The navy ships set sail from Sanya, Hainan province, on December 26, 2008, reached the Somali waters on Jan 6, and divided the waters into seven zones, each spanning 550 nautical miles.
It has received requests to escort 49 ships, and guided four vessels, including one from Hong Kong, on Jan 6. That means, it will escort 41 more vessels past the horn of Africa by Jan 19.