BEIJING - The company employing Chinese sailors aboard a hijacked ship expects a call from Somali pirates in three to five days, a company official said on Tuesday.
Li Jingzhong, spokesman of the Shanghai Dingheng Shipping Co, told China Daily they were able to contact the captain of the ship on Monday.
"The captain told us the crew was all safe. But we have not heard from them again since. It seems the pirates may have unplugged the telephone on board, and we haven't been able to reach them," Li said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday it will closely watch the incident and beef up efforts to rescue the hostages.
Most family members of the hostages have been informed about Monday's hijacking, Li said.
The company had applied for protection from the European Union's naval task force in the area, which then directed the ship to a recommended transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden patrolled by the anti-piracy coalition.
"The situation was under surveillance when the pirates appeared," Li said.
The Singapore-registered ship, Golden Blessing, carrying poisonous chemicals used in antifreeze, was scheduled to arrive in India from Saudi Arabia within days.
The Golden Blessing is owned by Golden Pacific International Holdings and is chartered by the Shanghai Dingheng Shipping Co.
Analysts say there is little hope of stamping out the lucrative pirate business unless some order can be brought to Somalia.
Rear Admiral Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the People's Liberation Army's National Defense University, told China Daily that it is difficult for international forces to wipe out such hijackings.
"The base of the pirates is on the land. Navy escort can only limit the pirates' activities," Yang said. "Shipping companies should seriously consider applying for escorts."
"Chinese vessels should also beef up protection by equipping themselves with self-defense weapons, such as oil bottles, high pressure water guns and broken glass," said Li Jie, a researcher with the Chinese navy's military academy.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, there was a marked rise in pirate attacks in the Somali area in 2009 from a year earlier, with at least 214 attacks, including 47 hijackings. That accounts for more than half of the attacks worldwide. There were another 35 attempts between January and March this year, a decline of 27 from the same period in 2009.