KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The People’s Liberation Army Navy 39th Escort Task Force carried out a three-day-long escort mission of Chinese fishing vessels through the Gulf of Aden, the People’s Liberation Army Daily reported today.
Destroyer Urumqi (118), frigate Yantai (538) and replenishment ship Taihu (889), along with embarked special forces personnel and two helicopters, were escorting eight fishing vessels belonging to China Fisheries Co., Ltd. to the southern exist of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait when a suspected pirate speedboat approached the convoy on the morning of Jan. 4. Yantai proceeded to sound a warning siren along with messages via loudspeakers and a Very High Frequency? radio to the boat to turn away. A helicopter with special forces personnel was also launched, which resulted in the boat turning away without further incident.
The 39th Escort Task Force left its home base in Qingdao, Shandong Province, on Sept. 26, relieving the 38th Escort Task Force comprising of the destroyer Nanjing (155), frigate Yangzhou (578) and replenishment ship Gaoyouhu (996), which had departed on their mission on May 15. The PLAN has been dispatching ships to perform escort duties in the Middle East since 2008.
Both Japan and the Republic of Korea also have sent anti-piracy deployments on a regular basis to the region since 2009 to protect commercial ships traveling there, with both countries having their deployed forces also working with the anti-piracy Combined Maritime Task Force 151 (CTF 151). CTF 151 is one of three task forces operated by the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces.
In accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and in cooperation with CMF coastal states, CTF 151’s mission is to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to strengthen relevant capabilities in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation. CTF 151 was established in January 2009 with a specific piracy mission-based mandate, currently endorsed under UN Security Council Resolution 2500 and now has been expanded to include conducting wider maritime security operations in support of CMF.
Japan’s deployment to the region requires annual Japanese government approval of a one-year extension to the mission, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approving the latest extension on Nov. 16. Japan’s forces deployed to the region consist of a destroyer along with embarked Japan Coast Guard personnel, while two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3 Orions operate out of Djibouti. Currently, JS Yudachi (DD-103) serves as the 40th anti-piracy mission with destroyer JS Samidare (DD-106) departing Kure on Sunday as the 41st anti-piracy mission. Samidare will spend a two-week quarantine period operating in Japanese waters before heading off to the Gulf of Aden.
South Korean destroyer ROKS Choe Yeong (DDH-981) and an embarked special operation force is deployed until June 2022. The 34th contingent, on the destroyer ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976), had its mission cut short in July last year due to a COVID-19 outbreak, which resulted in 272 out of the 301 members testing positive, though all those infected have recovered. The entire contingent was airlifted home while a relief crew sailed the ship home to Jinhae Naval Base, where it arrived in September.