Friday, November 6, 2009

Somali Pirates Awake Sleeping Giant

China Looks to Strengthen Military Cooperation Ties Against Pirates
Shipping News Feature

CHINA – In an attempt to further improve the cooperation of the various countries that have naval vessels taking part in anti-pirate patrols in the Gulf of Aden, China is staging a two-day conference in which delegates from NATO, the EU, Russia, Japan and India are to discuss how best to deal with the menace and protect shipping in the area.

The new impetus from the Chinese seems to come in response to the seizure of the cargo vessel, the De Xin Hai, and its 25 crewmen last month, which inspired the Chinese government to vow that it would launch ‘all-out-efforts’ to recover the personnel.

Though the Chinese navy currently has three ships operating on convoy protection duties in the area they have up until now been reluctant to operate under any centralised control. According to a report in the China Daily military sources state that they are considering proposing that sections of the ocean be allocated to different national authorities for their respective forces to patrol.

However, the Chinese military also acknowledge that this idea is unlikely to be adopted and has said that they have ‘…a positive and open attitude toward international cooperation on shipping escorts.’

Indeed, the Chinese naval presence has already proved a great ally in efforts to stem the pirates with EU officials praising their professionalism and cooperation. This latest forum is all too clear proof of the growing recognition that the Chinese are developing in the role they must play in international security to protect their interests.

The irony will not be lost on students of history. It was to tackle pirates on the Barbary Coast in North Africa that saw the fledgling United States launch its first foray into international force-projection that has led inexorably to the creation of the most powerful navy the world has ever seen.

It remains to be seen whether or not piracy on the same continent some two centuries later will start the rise of another naval giant. One thing is certain, any improvement to the security situation in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of East Africa will be welcome news to all involved in the shipping industry.

(pic: Chinese and US marines conducting joint exercise)