China on Wednesday dispatched its sixth Naval flotilla to Gulf of Aden whose top priority would be to rescue 19 Chinese sailors aboard an India-bound ship hijacked by Somali pirates.
The flotilla left as officials in Beijing said the 19 sailors aboard the hijacked ship were safe.
Li Jingzhong, spokesman of the Shanghai Dingheng Shipping Co which owns the ship said the company was able to contact the captain of the hijacked ship on Monday.
"The captain told us the crew was all safe. But we have not heard from them again since. It seems the pirates may have unplugged the telephone on board, and we haven't been able to reach them," Li told the official China Daily.
"Our company will try our best to ensure the safe release of the Chinese sailors onboard," Li said.
The sixth flotilla with more than 1,000 personnel, including Navy special forces troops, amphibious landing ship Kunlunshan, destroyer Lanzhou, and supply ship Weishanhu of the fifth fleet, will escort vessels sailing through the Gulf of Aden, official Xinhua news agency reported.
It is the first deployment of the amphibious landing ship Kunlunshan, with a displacement of 18,500 tonnes, on an escort mission.
The sixth flotilla will relieve the fifth one which has been cruising the waters off the Somalia coast for more than three months.
The previous five Chinese fleets to the Gulf of Aden have escorted 2,248 Chinese and foreign ships in 213 batches in this region, which has been plagued by pirate attacks, since December 2008.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it will closely watch the incident and beef up efforts to rescue the hostages.
The Singapore-registered ship, Golden Blessing, carrying poisonous chemicals used in anti-freeze, was scheduled to arrive in India from Saudi Arabia.
It is owned by Golden Pacific International Holdings and is chartered by the Shanghai Dingheng Shipping Co.
Commenting the repeated incidents hijacking by the Somali pirates, Chinese analysts said there is little hope of stamping out the lucrative pirate business unless some order can be brought to Somalia.
Rear Admiral Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the People's Liberation Army's National Defense University, told China Daily that it is difficult for international forces to wipe out such hijackings.
"The base of the pirates is on the land. Navy escort can only limit the pirates' activities," Yang said. "Shipping companies should seriously consider applying for escorts."
According to the International Maritime Bureau, there has been a rise in pirate attacks in the Somali area in 2009 from a year earlier, with at least 214 attacks, including 47 hijackings.