China warns of more pirate attacks in Gulf of Aden

China has warned of more pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia in the coming months.

Beijing: China has warned of more pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia in the coming months and asked the shipping companies to equip ocean-bound merchant vessels with self-defence devices to fend off possible piracy assaults.
Piracy attacks are likely to rise in the region from mid-March to May with the summer monsoon favourable for the pirates. October to December is another period where pirates are active for similar reasons, Safety supervisor of the Ministry of Transport Liu Gongchen said.

According to statistics, Somali pirates hijacked 43 ships during the two periods last year, accounting for 74 percent of the total attacks. Several Indian sailors operating on various international merchant vessels got caught in these attacks.

As a majority of China`s imported crude oil, iron ore and steel is shipped through the pirate-dominated Strait of Malacca and the Somalian waters, the country is attaching greater attention to the anti-pirate mission.

"We will issue warnings, train sailors, give shipping companies anti-pirate guidance and promote self-defence equipment on ships," he told the China Daily.

"But the kind of self-defence devices that can be carried by merchant ships and ways to manage them are still under study," he said.

Deputy director of the ministry`s water transport bureau, Cao Desheng, said the defence devices under discussion will not be lethal, as no firearms are allowed on board.

"But the defence devices should be powerful enough to stop pirates from boarding the ship and as a better result, reach a stalemate for half an hour."

Zhuo Li, deputy director of the general operation office of China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre, said the attacked ship that can reach an impasse with pirates for at least 20 minutes will generally have a better chance to be rescued by helicopters or warships patrolling the waters.

"Devices that produce strong sound waves or smoke could be a good way to achieve the purpose," he said.

Currently, all Chinese merchant ships have emergency plans to handle pirate attacks.

When a ship enters a hazardous area, sailors usually prepare water torches on the deck and observe the conditions of the waters round the clock, he said.

The bureau now requires shipping companies to strengthen anti-pirate drills, with at least one every three months, Cao said.

Xing Yucang, a director in charge of anti-pirate matters with the China Ocean Shipping Companies Group said they have come up with innovative ideas, such as pouring gasoline into empty beer bottles to make a "fire bomb" in case of an attack as that have proven effective during drills.