Chinese Navy escorts over 3,000 merchant vessels in Gulf of Aden

Over the past two years the Chinese Navy has escorted in excess of 3,000 merchant vessels through the Gulf of Aden. The figure was released by the Director of the Chinese Navy Advisory Committee for Information, Yin Zhuo, during a meeting with Chinese journalists.

Yin Zhuo also stated that since the beginning of its escort missions in the Gulf of Aden the Chinese naval escort fleet had successfully stopped all hijacking attempts from pirates in its designated areas. He also stated that the Chinese Navy had fought off a number of pirate attacks.

It is estimated that of the total number of merchant vessels escorted by the Chinese Navy through the Gulf of Aden over the past two years around 1,400 were foreign (non Chinese) ships.

Speaking to Chinese journalists, Yin Zhuo also cited the recent evacuation of Chinese nationals from Libya. He stated that the evacuation demonstrated the changes that Chinese naval forces are implementing. Their mission now includes escorting vessels, protecting and evacuating Chinese citizens living overseas as well as protecting overseas assets. He added that their mission was now to change and diversify within the context of this new era.

In the past the forces’ major task was assuring victory in battle, naval support in wartime and protecting national security. Yin Zhuo pointed out that one of the prominent factors driving change and development within the armed forces was the rise in Chinese economic power and the necessity to safeguard national economic interests.

Yin Zhuo also noted that escort missions in the Gulf of Aden are very expensive to undertake, but that the highs costs were both necessary and worthwhile. Journalists were informed that as a trade route, the Gulf of Aden accounted for 3 trillion U.S. dollars of foreign trade and nearly 1 trillion U.S. dollars of marine logistics. He added that the sea route also carried a very significant part of China’s total oil and energy imports. Summarising, Yin Zhuo pointed out that security in the Gulf of Aden is of great importance to China’s national economic development.

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Mark Lowe, Friday 11 March 2011

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