The Chinese naval fleet currently fighting pirates in the Somali waters will likely be replaced by new ships by the end of April or in early May, a senior naval officer told China Daily on Saturday.
In an exclusive interview, Major-General Zhang Deshun, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army Navy, said the mission for the current fleet will be about four months, as the Navy has planned.
The current fleet left the coastal resort of Sanya in Hainan province on Dec 26 last year and began protecting operations since early January this year upon its arrival.
Zhang said substituting warships and personnel are already ready to take charge, but said he was not privileged right now to disclose which ships will be heading the Gulf of Aden next.
He did say, however, that not all of the personnel with the current fleet near Somalia will return.
"To ensure the consistency and effectiveness of the mission, some personnel will be staying for the second phase," he said.
Citing the mission so far a great success, the Major-General said the Navy has prepared for a prolonged mission in which China cooperates well with international naval forces in a joint campaign against piracy.
"We feel this is not a short mission. The length of the mission depends on the Somali political situation and whether the Somali pirates can be eventually kept away," he said.
The current naval fleet includes two destroyers, flagship Wuhan and Haikou, where China Daily's correspondent has been aboard for more than two months.
By Mar 6, the fleet has completed over 100 patrolling missions in the Somali waters. The officer said not a single vessel, including three foreign ships, has been attacked under Chinese Navy's protection.