China on Friday said there was no link between the situation of the Indian sailors on two cargo ships carrying Australian coal stranded at Chinese ports and the current state of ties between the countries.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the two vessels were stuck at the ports because of quarantine measures in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As many as 39 Indian seafarers on two cargo vessels – MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia — have been stranded in waters off the Chinese ports of Jingtang and Caofeidian in the northern province of Hebei for several months.
The ships have not been allowed to discharge their cargo, and the crew have not been allowed to disembark either, impacting their mental and physical health, according to reports.
India’s external affairs ministry had questioned the Chinese authorities’ decision to not allow the ships to leave the ports.
“We understand that some other ships, which arrived after the Indian ships arrived, have actually managed to discharge cargo and leave. The reasons for this are not clear,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a news briefing.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, on Friday responded to a question on whether the ships and its crew were stuck because of currently sour ties involving China and India and Australia over military and trade disputes.
“We stated repeatedly that China has clear stipulations on quarantine measures. Concerning this, China has stayed in close communication with the Indian side and [has been] responding to their requests as well as providing necessary assistance to them,” Wang said at a ministry briefing on Friday.
“As far as I understand, China allows the crew change while meeting certain quarantine conditions,” he said.
“But this Jingtang port (where the ship Jag Anand is stranded) is not in the list for such crew changes… As to whether this has anything to do with the bilateral relations, I don’t see any link,” Wang said.
There are 23 Indian crew members on the bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand, in anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province since June 13. Another 16 Indian crew members were on the MV Anastasia, in anchorage near Caofeidian port since September 20. Both vessels are waiting to discharge cargo.
A report by ANI in November had said the 23 Indian crew members on board were seeking help from the Indian government to return home, and some are suffering from health issues and the ship is running short of medicines, the report said.
“Our embassy in Beijing has been in constant touch with provincial and central government authorities in China, requesting that the ships be allowed to dock and/or the crew be allowed to be changed,” Srivastava had said on Thursday.