PLA Troops on Hong Kong Ships in Pirate Waters

#1
PLA Troops on Hong Kong Ships in Pirate Waters

Armed special forces units offered to slower, more vulnerable vessels
Greg Torode, Charlotte So and Minnie Chan
Updated on Feb 01, 2010

PLA special forces soldiers are routinely serving aboard Hong Kong-registered ships during China's anti-pirate convoys around the Horn of Africa.

Confirmation of their use on local shipping comes amid a rising debate about the need for arms aboard merchant ships as an international naval effort struggles to contain the reach of Somali pirate gangs across vital trade routes linking Asia to Europe.

The shipping industry is bracing for a widening spread of attacks and rising pirate-related costs as gangs travel deeper into the Indian Ocean and ransom settlements reach as much as US$7 million.

The director of Hong Kong's Marine Department, Roger Tupper, confirmed Chinese naval officers running convoys of Hong Kong, mainland and Taiwanese ships sometimes offered "naval personnel" to be stationed on slower, more vulnerable ships during runs through the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden.

He said Hong Kong ships had accepted the offers, but he did not know whether Taiwanese ships had.

Naval officials involved in the international operation off Somalia said the teams offered by China were generally armed, and drawn from PLA naval special forces units that are part of China's historic three-warship deployment off Somalia.

Speaking at a shipping conference in Singapore last week, Tupper outlined a bleak picture of the piracy situation in the Indian Ocean and described the PLA's convoys as one of the few bright spots.

"They [pirates] have shown themselves to be able to adjust tactics and operate at ever greater distances," Tupper said. "It is now possible that piracy is the most lucrative Somali industry going ... it is the only way to improve their lives."

While he said there was room for an expanded international naval presence to counter the spread of pirates out beyond the Seychelles, Tupper said he did not want to see ships resorting to teams of armed private security guards.

"The convoys are working very well," he said. "But having armed security guards operating outside of a normal, military-run operation would lead to an unnecessary escalation in violence from the pirates," he said. "More guns, more shooting, more firepower - that is something that, overall, the industry wishes to avoid. We certainly support more naval activities taking place to protect shipping."

Not one successful attack had been staged in the year China has been running the convoys. Typically, 10 convoys are made each month, five sailing east and five west. Tupper said some 313 Hong Kong ships had been among the 1,110 ships that had taken part over the past year. It is not known how many had armed guards.

Two prominent Hong Kong firms running slow-moving bulk carriers, however, said they had no plans to accept PLA troops on board.

"We will continue to rely on the convoy service provided by the warships, which have proven very efficient," said Tim Huxley, chief executive of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings. Some 16 of its 18 vessels are registered in Hong Kong. One survived a failed attack by the Somali pirates in May last year.

Executives from Pacific Basin Shipping, the Hong Kong-listed firm that is the world's leading operator of small bulk vessels, said they wanted to see more co-ordination among the international navies operating in the Gulf of Aden and more escort vessels deployed, instead of simply putting soldiers aboard.

"It is difficult to handle soldiers on board, as our vessels are not built for this type of operation," deputy chief executive Klaus Nyborg said.

Officials with Taiwanese shipping firms Evergreen Marine Corporation and Formosa Marine Corporation refused to comment on whether they had used PLA guards on their ships off the Horn of Africa. Both said the issue was too sensitive to discuss.

Shipping lawyers say laws clearly allow a state to provide armed forces personnel on board ships of that flag. With private security guards, however, liability is much more complex and could expose captains to criminal charges or lawsuits. Laws aboard ships tend to mirror those of the country in which the country is registered.

Any weapons or explosives on tankers are prohibited universally.

Firearms are strictly controlled in Hong Kong, requiring extensive licensing and registration - a situation that would affect any Hong Kong-flagged ship wanting to put private guards on board.

"Just as you can't walk down the street wielding an AK-47, you can't do the same thing on a Hong Kong-flagged ship, either," one shipping lawyer said.

With many shipping firms using more lax flags of convenience to register their ships, private security firms have fewer problems getting arms on ships in other jurisdictions.

Debates ran hot on the fringes of the Singapore conference, an event co-ordinated by the Hong Kong Shipowners Association.

"Foreign owners of some ships registered in Hong Kong have asked us to provide armed teams... We have to tell them it is too difficult," one private security executive said.

"Frankly it is a growth industry ... we know the industry and many sailors are against it, but other crew are for it, they want the peace of mind."

South Korean crews are considered particularly keen to take the fight to the pirates.

One veteran captain said: "This talk of armed guards is dangerous nonsense. It can only lead to escalation. Right now, at least sailors are not being hurt once they are caught."

Some ships hire unarmed crews to help sailors protect their ships with non-lethal equipment, such as fire hoses and barbed wire.

Somali pirates routinely strafe ships with fire from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. But once aboard they have rarely harmed crew, despite holding them for months until a ransom is settled.

Association managing director Arthur Bowring said his grouping did not support the use of private armed guards on ships, saying it advocated its members protect their ships through a range of other defensive measures and improved communications with the authorities.

European Union and US naval officers told the conference that international naval forces were struggling to contain the reach of Somali pirates, and urged greater efforts from the private sector to protect their ships.

The long-term solution, they warned, could not be found at sea, but only on the currently lawless shores of Somalia, a failed state.

"From the EU's perspective, there is no appetite for military action on shore," said Commander Duncan Foster, a liaison officer with the European Union's naval force. "We've all been watching Black Hawk Down and everyone can see Somalia looks pretty difficult."

http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCM...toid=5250705054586210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD

Copyright © 2010 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved
 
#2
JoeCivvie said:
PLA Troops on Hong Kong Ships in Pirate Waters

European Union and US naval officers told the conference that international naval forces were struggling to contain the reach of Somali pirates, and urged greater efforts from the private sector to protect their ships.

The long-term solution, they warned, could not be found at sea, but only on the currently lawless shores of Somalia, a failed state.

"From the EU's perspective, there is no appetite for military action on shore," said Commander Duncan Foster, a liaison officer with the European Union's naval force. "We've all been watching Black Hawk Down and everyone can see Somalia looks pretty difficult."
http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCM...toid=5250705054586210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD

Copyright © 2010 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved
So that's were we get our training from. :omg:
 
#3
I bet the Chinks won't bother ringing Beijing for confirmation of their ROEs - or concern themselves too much with the Yuman Rights of the miscreants. Good on 'em.
 
#4
BuckFelize said:
I bet the Chinks won't bother ringing Beijing for confirmation of their ROEs - or concern themselves too much with the Yuman Rights of the miscreants. Good on 'em.
Quite.
 
#5
pla's henno to bejing shot are load of pirates yesterday
bejing any prisoners ?
nah boss made sure none of them got away
bejing cushty pick more ammo at the replen :twisted:

having no respect for human rights comes in useful sometimes
 
#6
BuckFelize said:
I bet the Chinks won't bother ringing Beijing for confirmation of their ROEs - or concern themselves too much with the Yuman Rights of the miscreants. Good on 'em.
My tuppence worth: Beijing will have given them explicit ROEs before they set out, based on their experience of the last year. They'll stick to them to the letter.

They'll be scrupulously correct in their treatment of any prisoners and won't be going out of their way to be overly heavy-handed.

This mission is as much about reassuring China's neighbours that the 'peaceful rise' is still on track. Brassing up choggies left, right and centre will just put the wind up ASEAN for no good reason.

Much as we all love a righteous bloodbath, I wouldn't go looking to PLAN to supply it. They've bigger fish to fry.
 
#8
Trotsky said:
I am very surprised they are protecting Taiwan's ships, I thought they didn't even recognise each other?
Taiwan's the PRC's 3rd largest trading partner and PRC is Taiwan's biggest. Apart from the money, there's also a strong desire in Beijing to up-fluffy their image in the eyes of the ordinary Taiwanren.

It wouldn't have happened in Chen's day, but now that he's safely behind bars Ma can get on with not prodding the dragon with a pointed stick for the sheer hell of it.
 
#9
smartascarrots said:
Trotsky said:
I am very surprised they are protecting Taiwan's ships, I thought they didn't even recognise each other?
Taiwan's the PRC's 3rd largest trading partner and PRC is Taiwan's biggest. Apart from the money, there's also a strong desire in Beijing to up-fluffy their image in the eyes of the ordinary Taiwanren.

It wouldn't have happened in Chen's day, but now that he's safely behind bars Ma can get on with not prodding the dragon with a pointed stick for the sheer hell of it.
True. There are also a lot of joint Taiwanese/PLA businesses in the PRC. (Analysts estimate the PLA makes $3 billion to $5 billion - it publicly admits to $1 billion - annually in profits).
 
#10
smartascarrots said:
Trotsky said:
I am very surprised they are protecting Taiwan's ships, I thought they didn't even recognise each other?
Taiwan's the PRC's 3rd largest trading partner and PRC is Taiwan's biggest. Apart from the money, there's also a strong desire in Beijing to up-fluffy their image in the eyes of the ordinary Taiwanren.

It wouldn't have happened in Chen's day, but now that he's safely behind bars Ma can get on with not prodding the dragon with a pointed stick for the sheer hell of it.
Why are the PRC getting arrsey over President O'Drama's attempts to upgrade Taiwan's naval ships and missile systems then?
 
#11
Oh! It,s Chinese troops is it, giggle!, for a minute there I thought, PLA, Port of London Authority, Special Forces!??.
 
#12
Alec_Lomas said:
Why are the PRC getting arrsey over President O'Drama's attempts to upgrade Taiwan's naval ships and missile systems then?
Because they're ideologically committed to the idea of 'One China' and hacked off at a foreign power interfering in what they see as an internal matter.

Imagine a UK analogy: after losing a civil war, Gordon Brown empties the museums of London of all the choicest pieces of British heritage, legs it to Stornoway where he sets up a nation he calls the United Kingdom and proclaims to all and sundry that he's still the rightful PM of the whole of the British Isles and NI. The yanks decide they like him better than the new folk in charge and help him to turn Lewis into an island fortress, even while keeping diplomatic relations with the new London government.

Beijing had begun to have some impact in lobbying for the removal of the Taiwan Relations Act - a particular piece of legal sophistry by which Washington could have its cake and eat it - as witnessed by a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs calling for a review of support for Taiwan. They'd like to see a result like this in more general terms.

What would be really interesting would be their response if Taiwan offered some vessels from their (more than capable) navy to help anti-piracy ops. :twisted:
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
My interpretation of the offer to put PLA onboard Taiwan ships is that in Red Chinese eyes these are really Red Chinese ships.

As to the fate of arrested pirates, I wouldn't hang around waitng for their memoirs. It's not that the Chinese have a different take on Yooman Rights, it's that as a nation, Red or otherwise, they have never had any take on this at all. Chinese history, religion and culture contain nothing about treating another person part way decently.
 
#14
PE4rocks said:
BuckFelize said:
I bet the Chinks won't bother ringing Beijing for confirmation of their ROEs - or concern themselves too much with the Yuman Rights of the miscreants. Good on 'em.
Quite.
Just make sure no nosy journo's around!! :twisted:
 
#15
seaweed said:
It's not that the Chinese have a different take on Yooman Rights, it's that as a nation, Red or otherwise, they have never had any take on this at all. Chinese history, religion and culture contain nothing about treating another person part way decently.
Don't give up the day job, will you?
 
#16
For some reason I thought Confucianism was a Vietnamese thing,oh well you live and learn.
 
#17
expat_71 said:
For some reason I thought Confucianism was a Vietnamese thing,oh well you live and learn.
It's spread about a bit and Vietnam was heavily influenced by China at one point. Perhaps that's why?
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#18
I wouldn't have thought Tiananmen Square was Conficucianism in action.

I do think the PLA teams will be operating very strictly in accordance with whatever their orders are. My perception of the Chinese state is that it is very much a top-down organisation, although it clearly does have difficulty disciplining the lower echelons of the Party who are mired in graft and squeeze. as of course the Chinese always have been. But direct disobedience, once detected, does seem to get the chop.
 

Trans-sane

LE
Book Reviewer
#19
seaweed said:
I wouldn't have thought Tiananmen Square was Conficucianism in action.

I do think the PLA teams will be operating very strictly in accordance with whatever their orders are. My perception of the Chinese state is that it is very much a top-down organisation, although it clearly does have difficulty disciplining the lower echelons of the Party who are mired in graft and squeeze. as of course the Chinese always have been. But direct disobedience, once detected, does seem to get the chop.
I agree with the above. But I also don't see the PLA(N) being given softly-softly ROEs. The Chinese aint squeemish and they don't seem to **** about either. And frankly pirates are fair game for all as far as I'm concerned.
 
#20
Confucianism and the PLA is akin to thinking that all Muslims follow the Koran vis-a-vis treating folks well. The Oriental by nature has in the main has always had a cruel streak in him that is very close to the surface.
 

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