Commander Combined Task Force 151, Rear Admiral Harris Chan, visited Commander Chinese Task Force 526, Commodore Han Xiaohu, on board CNS Wenzhou in the Gulf of Aden May 7. CTF 526 is an independent deployer whose key mission is to perform convoy escort of merchant vessels in the Gulf of AdenCommander Adan Cruz, commanding officer USS Mason (DDG 97) who hosts the CTF 151 flagship, was also part of the visiting delegation.
RADM Chan and CDR Cruz were greeted by CDRE Han along with his Chief of Staff, Captain Fan Zaijun, and Captain of CNS Wenzhou, Captain Fu Xiaoliang.
Commanders of both Task Forces shared their recent experiences in counter-piracy operations, and emphasised the importance of information sharing as well as international cooperation and goodwill in ensuring the success of their missions. Han shared that foreign ships now form more than two-thirds of the merchant convoys CTF 526 escorts, compared to less than one-third when the PLA Navy first started its convoy escort mission in January 2009. He reiterated his country’s desire to foster a stable, cooperative and prosperous maritime environment in this region and globally.
Chan shared with Han that such engagement visits at sea are vital in extending the network for information sharing and operational cooperation between coalition forces and independent deployers. He also reiterated his commitment to forge closer ties with CTF 526 and other independent deployers, saying that “if we operate in our separate ways, we can only at best be the sum of all parts, but if we work together, we will be a much stronger team as a whole in fighting a common pirate enemy”.
Besides touring CNS Wenzhou, CTF 526 also provided a demonstration of the PLA Navy’s Special Operations Force capabilities in countering pirate attacks.
The visit to the Chinese independent deployer is part of CTF 151’s Commander’s Engagement Programme. CTF 151 is a multi-national task force established by the Combined Maritime Forces in January 2009 to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and Arabian Sea. Singapore took over command of CTF 151 March 31.