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Chinese ship may have escaped 2nd pirate attack

A CHINESE merchant ship that fought off pirates in Somali waters in December confronted three suspicious boats on Wednesday morning at the mouth of the Red Sea near the Gulf of Aden in what might have been another attempt to seize the vessel.

The Zhenhua 4, operated by Shanghai-based Zhenhua Port Machinery Co, encountered the boats on her return voyage from Egypt, the Jiefang Daily Website reported yesterday.

Smaller but faster than ordinary fishing boats, the three vessels were first seen about one nautical mile away, said Captain Shen Guibo.

The crew sounded the alarm and fired two flares at the boats. Thirty crew members took up positions on the deck and in cabins and armed themselves with wooden bars, Molotov cocktails and stones for a possible fight, the report said.

But after five minutes the three vessels slowed, changed direction and sailed off.

The Zhenhua 4 was transporting cranes and steel bridge structures to Egypt on the same route on which she was attacked earlier. With a deck lower than most ships, the vessel is considered an easy target for pirates.

On December 17, led by her former captain Peng Weiyuan, the crew fought off nine pirates armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles.

The crew members locked themselves in their quarters and used fire hoses and Molotov cocktails to prevent the attackers from entering. An international anti-piracy force also sent in an attack helicopter to help chase off the pirates.

"Our crew members, who had been well trained and prepared, used water cannons, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and anything else that could be used to battle them," Peng told China Central Television in a telephone interview shortly after the attack. "Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a cease-fire. Then the helicopter from the joint fleet came to help us."

The Zhenhua Co gave the 30 crew members US$10,000 each for their courage in fighting off the attempted hijacking.

China has also sent warships to the gulf to help in the international efforts to stop the attacks.


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