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English>>China Society

Fishermen's fears linger after ordeal (3)

By An Baijie, and Hu Yongqi (China Daily)

14:20, July 28, 2012

Zhang said he usually felt desperate and hopeless - he once wrote a will, and he prepared himself to be killed. But he could not stop thinking of his 6-year-old daughter.

"I could not help crying whenever I saw her photo while I was held in Somalia," Zhang said. "She has changed so much that I didn't recognize her when I came home."

Impossible to escape

Zhang said he never expected danger when he saw the 100,000-ton oil tanker. After the tanker stopped about 10 nautical miles (18.52 km) from the trawler, 20 armed pirates were dropped on a skiff, which then headed at full speed toward Zhang's trawler.

"The skiff reached a speed of nearly 60 knots, but our trawler could do at most 8 knots," Zhang said. "So it was impossible to escape."

As the skiff got closer, Zhang's captain made an emergency call to the trawler's owner for help. The owner said he would seek help from the local government, but the pirates managed to board the trawler before the crew could do anything, Zhang said.

He said it was impossible for them to resist since they had no weapons and they knew nothing about Chinese escort warships.

"Compared with large merchant ships, the trawler Xu Fu 1 is very small in terms of tonnage and cannot accelerate to full speed in a short time," said Zhang Denghui, an assistant to the president of China Shipping (Group) Co in Shanghai.

"Besides, fishing boats have to stop on one spot waiting for the harvest and cannot escape when encountering pirates on the sea and become more vulnerable to hijacks."

Merchant ships are much safer because of their size and speed. Sailors can find shelter in a "safety cabin" that is equipped with facilities to call for help from the escort navy on nearby waters, or from the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Pirates cannot break into the cabin before nearby frigates come to the ship's aid. Unfortunately, Xu Fu 1 did not have such a cabin.

"I had a machine gun pointed to my forehead by a middle-aged pirate," he recalled. "The only word he shouted to me was 'stop'."

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