The Navy's anti-piracy troops dispatched to the Somali coast have escorted an increasing number of nonmilitary vessels through the piracy-prone region following their successful mission to free a South Korean freighter taken hostage by Somali sea rovers in 2011.
"Since the Dawn of the Gulf of Aden operation, the number of vessels the Cheonghae Unit escorted in the sea near the Gulf of Aden has doubled," a military official said.
Under the much-published operation, the 300-strong anti-piracy unit successfully rescued the 11,500-ton South Korean freighter Samho Jewelry along with its 21 crewmen who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates.
The Samho Jewelry was en route to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates when it was hijacked in the Arabian Sea earlier in the month. The crew included eight South Koreans and foreign sailors from Indonesia and Myanmar.
Since 2009, South Korea stationed Cheonghae Unit in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea off Somalia, a hub of pirate activity.
The first six batches of rotating Cheonghae troops that were dispatched before the rescue mission each escorted an average of 439 vessels during their six-month service, but the corresponding number soared to 854 for troops sent after the successful mission, the official added.
The total number of vessels that the anti-piracy unit has covered so far is some 14,000, including 9,600 South Korean ships, according to the military official.
"The Cheonghae Unit acquired their anti-terror expertise from the execution of its operations in the Gulf of Aden," another military official said. "It will be also helpful in safeguarding our own territorial seas." (Yonhap)