23 Indian sailors stranded in Chinese waters set to return next week
- The seafarers are expected to reach Chiba port on January 14, and will fly back to India after the completion of procedures related to Covid-19 protocols.
Twenty-three Indian sailors stranded in Chinese waters for almost seven months are set to return home after a crew change was arranged for their vessel at a Japanese port, minister of state for shipping Mansukh Mandaviya said on Saturday.
A total of 39 Indian seafarers on the MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia have been stranded off two Chinese ports for months, and India had been exploring several options to bring them back. The situation is believed to be the outcome of the China-Australia trade row - both vessels were carrying Australian coal and weren’t allowed to discharge their cargo.
The 23 Indians on MV Jag Anand are now expected to return next week, though there was no official word on the status of 16 Indians on MV Anastasia.
“Our Seafarers stuck in China are coming back to India! Ship M.V. Jag Anand, having 23 Indian crews, stuck in China, is set to sail toward Chiba, Japan to carry out crew change...This could only happen due to strong leadership of [Prime Minister] @NarendraModiji,” Mandaviya said in a tweet.
The seafarers are expected to reach Chiba port on January 14, and will fly back to India after the completion of procedures related to Covid-19 protocols, Mandaviya said.
The minister said he appreciated the humanitarian approach of Great Eastern Shipping Company, the owner of MV Jag Anand, towards the sailors and for “standing by them in this crucial time”.
India had on Friday said it had again taken up with China the issue of bringing back all 39 stranded sailors and was awaiting a response from Beijing and shipping companies to various options for handling the matter. Among these options was seeking early approval from China for a crew change, as is being done in the case of MV Jag Anand.
Chinese authorities have outlined detailed steps for a crew change in view of the country’s strict pandemic control and prevention measures, and these have to be complied with by the shipping companies, the external affairs ministry had said.
MV Jag Anand has been at anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province since June 13, while MV Anastasia has been on anchorage near Caofeidian port since September 20.
In a separate development, the Indian embassy in Beijing said on Saturday that it has been repeatedly advised by Chinese authorities that Covid-19-related restrictions in place are unlikely to be relaxed in the coming months and courses for Indian students studying in China “are likely to continue only through online means” for the next semester.
A statement issued by the embassy indicated that it wouldn’t be possible for Indian students to return to China in the near future. “Even as the embassy continues to take up the matter with Chinese authorities, there has unfortunately been no positive evolution of this situation,” it said.
Following reports of resurgence of Covid-19 cases in China, authorities have reinforced epidemic controls and restrictions on travel and entry. “The suspension of visas of Indian nationals issued before November 2, 2020...is an instance of these enhanced controls,” the statement said.
Chinese authorities have also denied permission for chartered flights between the two countries in view of the strict control measures.
“While the embassy is aware of the difficulty of undertaking courses in medicine in online format, Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities are advised to take note of the restrictions currently in place and make appropriate arrangements for continuing their education,” the statement said.
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