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English>>China Society

Fishermen's fears linger after ordeal (6)

By An Baijie, and Hu Yongqi (China Daily)

14:20, July 28, 2012

Some private boat owners or shipping companies did not obey the rules and got hijacked. In 2010, Shao picked up a Chinese ship hijacked by pirates off Somali shore after prolonged negotiations. The ship's lookout saw a suspicious boat coming toward the ship in the Gulf of Aden. But he just saw one man on the boat, while other pirates covered themselves with cloth. The lookout shot a warning to the crew and the crew came up to the deck. They were not preparing for "battle", but making fun of the lookout. Soon, other pirates showed their guns and captured three sailors who did not manage to get into the safety cabin.

Somali pirates are active around the Gulf of Aden, but ships can apply to be escorted by the Chinese navy. "That is the best choice to ensure safety," Shao said, adding that the navy will keep a close eye on all ships and even send armed soldiers onboard in extreme cases.

"The most important thing is that the escort navy must get information about ships being threatened by pirates, and so the awareness to be on high alert has to be raised for sailors when the ships plow the waves," Shao said.

Ships have to call the navy for help when they are under attack. When they get word of a threat, frigates will rush to the ship to drive away pirates. Sometimes, a helicopter lifts off from a nearby frigate and fires warning shots at the pirates, who turn and flee at the sight of the oncoming warship.

According to the International Maritime Organization, 69 pirate attacks occurred around the Gulf of Aden from January to June, but 163 ships were attacked in the same period last year. The number of hijacked ships dropped to 13 in the first six months, while it was 21 from January to June in 2011.

For Shao, the Gulf of Aden waters are becoming safer than before due to the presence of the Chinese navy. More than 30,000 ships go through the gulf every year, he said, but only about 50 ships are hijacked.

"As long as sailors fully do their job and trust the escort navy, ships can still get through safely," Shao said.

Zhang Leilong, Liu Hua and Qi Xin contributed to this story.

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