Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Iran fleet makes maiden voyage through Malacca Strait

Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says that a naval fleet of the country has crossed the Strait of Malacca for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“For the first time since the Islamic Revolution, the Naval Forces of the Islamic Republic have crossed the Strait of Malacca,” Sayyari said on Monday.

Sayyari stressed the importance of the north Indian Ocean and southeastern Asia to Iran because of the commercial vessel traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and Malacca.

He added that the Iranian Navy’s 24th fleet of warships, comprising Sabalan destroyer and Kharg helicopter carrier, had set sail for the Malacca Strait to provide security for the route, adding that the fleet would enter the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.

Kharg helicopter carrier is 207 meters long and the largest of its kind in West Asia. The carrier operates as a backup aircraft transport for the Iranian Navy’s destroyers in international waters.

The Strait of Malacca is a narrow 805-kilometer (500-mile) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

After leaving the Strait of Malacca, the Iranian fleet will cruise northwards into the Pacific Ocean and dock at the Chinese Port of Zhangjiagang and the Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka, the Iranian commander added.

The dockings are aimed at “extending the Iranian nation's message of friendship to the countries of China and Sri Lanka,” Sayyari said.

In recent years, Iran’s Navy has been increasing its presence in international waters to protect naval routes and provide security for Iranian merchant vessels and tankers.

In addition, in line with the international efforts to combat piracy, the Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard the vessels involved in maritime trade, especially the ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.

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