The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone hosted an appreciation reception at their embassy in solidarity with the safe return of their fishing vessel by the Sierra Leone Navy and others on 23 July 2023.

The Chinese Ambassador, Wang Qing, in his welcoming speech extended his appreciation to the Honorable Mrs. Princess Dugba, Minister of Fishery and Maritime Resources, Honorable Mr. Muana Brima Massaquoi, Deputy Minister of Defence, Honorable Mrs. Haja Isata Abdulai Kamara, Deputy Minister of Fishery and Maritime Resources, Honorable Mr. William Fayia Sellu, Inspector General of Police, Representatives of Chinese Fishing companies in Sierra Leone, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

He started by welcoming the Safe Return of A Hijacked Chinese Fishing Vessel  “Shenghai No. 2” and its crew members. On July 22 2023.

He went on to explain how the said vessel was hijacked and those on board. “Shenghai No. 2 was hijacked by pirates in the territorial waters of Sierra Leone and then entered the territorial waters of Liberia. There were 6 Chinese crew members and 17 Sierra Leonean crew members on board. Through our joint efforts, they returned to Sierra Leone two weeks ago. I am very happy to see you back safely and well,” he said.

For the safe return of all crew members of Shengai 2, Ambassador Qing continued to recognize the good support of several Ministries, Departments and Agencies for the safe recovery of the vessel.

“I also would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Sierra Leone Government and all relevant Ministries and agencies, Ministry of Fishery and Maritime Resources, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, RSLAF especially the Maritime Wing, and Sierra Leone Police for your great support and assistance for rescuing the vessel. After the incident happened, all parties responded quickly,” the Chinese Ambassador reiterated.

He further expressed his appreciation by recalling an event when the vessel was reported hijacked. He recalled saying, ”I remember I called Deputy Minister Massaquoi and PS Elizabeth Ellie in the very early morning when we received the report of hijacking and that’s a Sunday Morning. I am sorry for calling you so early on Sunday Morning. I hope will never do it again. I have learned that many officials worked overtime to track the fishing vessel, coordinate with the Liberia side, keep updating the latest information, and so on. The safe return of the fishing vessel under our joint efforts is a vivid demonstration of the long-established and solid friendship between China and Sierra Leone. There is an old saying in China, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”.  China and Sierra Leone have always supported each other in times of need. We are good brothers and sisters through thick and thin, share weal and woe.”

He went on to also express his appreciation to the Chinese Community in Sierra Leone for their assistance in helping toward the recovery of the vessel.

“I want to thank our Chinese Community here for your contribution to the safe return of Shenghai No.2. I know other Chinese fishing companies here such as中水provide a lot of assistance to Shenghai after the hijacking occurred, including information, engagement with other agencies.”

He recognised the good work of the medical team in Sierra Leone who helped the crew to recover.

Our medical team here also provided health guidance for the crew members and immediately made physical examination for them when they came back. That show us we can tackle and challenges and crisis only if we work in solidarity and unity,” the Ambassador lamented.

He promised that the Chinese Government connected great importance to the safety and rightful interests of Chinese enterprises and citizens abroad and said the Embassy would always provide strong backing to Sierra Leone.

He continued by explaining the importance of the Gulf of Guinea and how piracy has affected the coast for far too long.

The Gulf of Guinea is a shared maritime home to all countries in the region. But for a long time piracy seriously affected the peace and development of coastal countries. Piracy is the across the sea and cross border organized crime. It moves a lot and it is hard to locate. Only by strengthening coordination and cooperation can we effectively combat piracy. We are pleased to see a decade ago, leaders of the region jointly signed the Yaoundé code of conduct to consolidate the consensus to safeguard common maritime security. We are pleased to see the Security Council adopted in May last year Resolution 2634, spotlighting the support for regional anti-piracy capacity building,” he said.

He emphasized that “We should continue to step up anti-piracy capacity building remembering in recent years, China provided regional countries with multiple consignments of anti-piracy supplies and equipment, engaged in joint anti-piracy exercises. The Chinese military held the first symposium on the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, in which China and the coastal countries and the Inter Regional Coordination Center for the maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea held in-depth discussions on the theme of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and reached a lot of important consensuses. In April this year, we handed over a gifted offshore patrol vessel to Sierra Leone and H.E. President Julius Maada Bio Commissioned the Vessel and named it Madam Yoko. This offshore patrol vessel will help reduce the risk and deter those maritime crimes.”

Going forward, he explained how “China stands ready to draw on living success stories and modalities from the internal community and on the basis of adequate consultations with coastal states explore ways of cooperation such as joint law enforcement and join escort, promote practical cooperation in the fields of detection, early warning, joint cruising, training and exercise, and equipment assistance, so as to play an active role and make greater contributions to the maintenance of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.”

He explained the dangers that breed piracy saying poverty is the root of piracy and how China has embarked on several activities to help eradicate poverty in the Gulf of Guinea.

At the same time, We should also pay due attention to the root causes of piracy and eliminate the breeding ground of piracy. The Secretary-General’s report shows that 242 million people in the Gulf of Guinea live below the poverty line. The social economic development challenge and livelihood issues is a significant underlying cause for the problem of piracy. The Gulf of Guinea is rich in energy resources and has great potential for development. The key lies in transforming the advantage of natural endowments into the driving force for development, job opportunities and well-being of coastal countries. China has also actively worked with Sierra Leone among other countries in areas, such as fishing harbor construction, aquaculture, and fishing processing, benefiting local communities. help guarantee and improve people’s livelihood, and enhance the sense of gain and security of local communities, in particular the youth,” he said.

He further explained how China and Sierra Leone has coordinatively working towards benefiting each other through fishery.

Fishery is a traditional and one of the major areas of cooperation between China and Sierra Leone which has mutually benefited our two peoples. Chinese fishing companies are the main partners of the fishery industry of Sierra Leone, and has made positive contribution to the employment and the economic and social development of Sierra Leone.” he said.

At the end of his speech, the Ambassador reiterated his visit to the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources remarking their cooperation towards getting a tangible results.

“I just paid a call on Hon. Minister Dugba and exchanged views on how to push forward our practical cooperation. I look forward to more fruitful and tangible results of cooperation through our joint efforts,” he ended.

Deputy Minister of Defense, Muana Brima Massaquoi in his speech started by recognizing the presence of the Ministers of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Senior Military Officers of the RSLAF, and others. He went on to express his delight to witness the event on behalf of the President of Sierra Leone. He extended his acknowledgment that China and Sierra Leone have had a relationship that dates back over 5 decades. He said, “Countries have had challenges in the security environment that are dangerous and complex to their national security and no country can address these challenges alone thereby calling on strong alliances and partnership.”

He furthered by saying that on 23 July 2023, the CO of Maritime informed their chain of command that F/V Shanghai 2, a registered Chinese-flagged fishing vessel operated by Sabco Fishing Company was attacked by unknown armed men and later learned that the same vessel was directed towards Liberia territorial waters.

He thanked the Liberia Coast Guard for their timely intervention in engaging the pirates that highjacked the vessel from Sierra Leone. He explained that this achievement was due to the constant sharing of information, collaboration, and coordination with them.

Moving on he extended his appreciation to every agency, department, and unit who contributed to the successful conduct of the counter-piracy operations. He said this intervention would not have been successful without their support so he thanked all 23 crew (6 Chinese and 17 Sierra Leoneans) onboard the attacked vessel were rescued safely and he is sure they were in good health, that 2 pirates were arrested and turned over to the Liberia Ministry of Justice and that the crew rescued were returned to their respective embassies.

At the end of his speech, he reaffirmed the Ministry of Defense’s commitment to working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and international partners to fight illegal maritime activities in our waters and the Gulf of Guinea at large, and to all those that contributed in diverse ways to make safe the vessel and crew, he extended his gratitude and appreciation. He said “it is through effective collaboration and coordination that our waters will become safe and secure from thriving maritime threats.”

In delivering her speech, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Princess Dugba, expressed her appreciation to the Chinese Embassy for the invitation. She emphasized the timely intervention of the Sierra Leone Army and that of the Liberia Coast Guard in recovering the vessel.

At the end of her speech, she expressed her hopes to work with the Chinese and other partners in the fight against piracy.

In the final end of the program, Yang Yufeng, the Fishery project manager of Dalian Shanghai Ocean Fishery Co. Ltd. from China expressed his appreciation on behalf of the Chairman of the company.

I am very glad to meet you here today and make a speech on behalf of the chairman of our company Ying Shidong.”

He said that “The fishing boat “Shanghai 2” of our company was hijacked by pirates in the waters of Sierra Leone, and sailed for Liberia. There are 17 crew members from Sierra Leone and 6 Chinese crew members on board. With efforts of the Sierra Leone government and various departments, the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, the Chinese Embassy in Liberia, and other parties, it was On July 22, 2023, the vessel was finally successfully rescued in Liberian waters on July 24. On August 18, “Shanghai 2” returned safely to Freetown Port, Sierra Leone.”

He went to express his concerns analysing the outcome of the rescue.

This is a rare successful rescue, which is difficult and takes a short time. It’s across two countries in West Africa. In this rescue, many countries and departments are highly coordinated. It is also a rare case of large-scale rescue operations without casualties. The Sierra Leone Government demonstrated outstanding determination and efficiency in the rescue operation, putting the life safety of the fishermen from both countries first. And finally the Sierra Leone government ensured the safe return of all the crew members,” he said.