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Chinese Sailors Amuse Themselves At Sea
by James Dunnigan
February 7, 2012

Photos have appeared (on Chinese websites) showing a Chinese destroyer, operating off Somalia, with a room equipped as a LAN (local area network for PCs) "study room". But the pictures are clear enough to show some of the sailors playing Chinese editions of Western games, some of them wargames. Chinese commanders have paid attention to morale for their sailors assigned to the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia, almost from the very beginning. China has had warships off Somalia for four years now and early on there were signs of flagging morale. Many solutions were tried.

For example, fifteen months ago a Chinese hospital ship arrived off Somalia. It was not there to treat sick Somalis, but to provide a rest stop for Chinese sailors serving on warships participating in the anti-piracy patrol. The hospital ship then visited ports in Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and Bangladesh to provide free medical treatment for locals, and then return home.

China has become concerned with low morale among their sailors serving off Somalia. Including transit time, these ships spend nearly eight months away from home, and China has not allowed its navy to establish a base for shore leave in the region. All other navies have such arrangements, but not China. Instead, China launched a special crew support ship. It's a converted cruise ship, with expanded medical facilities (to treat any victims of local diseases or those injured on duty). But recreational and entertainment spaces have been left largely unchanged, so sailors can get a few days of rest and relaxation without going ashore anywhere.

The "morale ship" could not be stationed there all the time, so commanders asked for suggestions and what most sailors missed most was an Internet Café type establishment. The Chinese Navy cannot provide much Internet access for its sailors, but a LAN equipped computer game room was found to be a good substitute.


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