China on Wednesday said it was in touch with Indian authorities on the circumstances of the 23 Indian sailors stranded on a ship anchored off a northern Chinese port since June, but did not specify when they will be allowed to leave the vessel.
The sailors are stuck on bulk carrier MV Jag Anand, which has been anchored off the Jingtang port on the Bohai Sea in China’s Hebei province.
In a separate instance, at least 16 more Indian seafarers have not been allowed to leave their ship MV Anastasia, stranded off the Caofeidian port in the same province. Beijing has not allowed the 23 sailors to get off the vessel in the backdrop of an increasing number of imported Covid-19 cases in the country, putting the physical and mental health of the sailors at risk.
There’s been no report of any positive Covid-19 case on the ship in the past six months on Jag Anand. But that hasn’t stopped the Chinese port authorities from implementing strict anti-epidemic protocols, preventing the sailors from disembarking. “China has explicit stipulations on the epidemic control measures and quarantine of seafarers at ports,” Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. “The local authorities of China have been in close communication with Indian side and replied to their requests in a timely manner. We also provide necessary facilitation and assistance while meeting certain quarantine and epidemic prevention requirements,” Zhao said.
The ship sailed from the port of Gladstone in Australia on May 26 – carrying coal – and reached Jingtang port on June 13. Since then, the ship has been anchored 2-3 km away from the port.
HT reported in November that while the local port authorities have not allowed the “crew change” – whereby a ship’s crew can disembark and head back to their country of origin – it has been communicated to them that anyone needing treatment could be allowed to come ashore temporarily.
However, at least 16 more Indians are stuck on MV Anastasia off the Caofeidian port in Hebei. “Onboard the Anastasia are 18 seafarers – 16 of them Indian, one Russian and one Filipino – forced to work at sea for far longer than their current anchorage, with crew clocking up to 20 months as ports refuse to let them disembark for fear of spreading contagion,” a report in The Sydney Morning Herald said Tuesday, adding that at least four them were on “suicide watch”.
On December 17, an MEA spokesperson told a briefing: “The Chinese authorities have conveyed that on account of various Covid-19 related restrictions imposed by local authorities, crew change is not being permitted from these ports. The government continues to be in regular touch with the Chinese authorities to seek a resolution of these issues,”