Dozens of Indian sailors remain stuck on stranded ships at Chinese ports
China on Wednesday said it was in touch with Indian authorities on the situation of the 23 Indian sailors stranded on a ship anchored off a northern Chinese port since June, but did not say when they will be allowed to leave the vessel.
As many as 23 Indian sailors are stuck on bulk carrier MV Jag Anand, which has been anchored off Jingtang port on Bohai Sea in northern China’s Hebei province since June. Bohai Sea is a westward, inner extension of Yellow Sea.
In a separate instance, at least 16 more Indian seafarers have not been allowed to leave their ship MV Anastasia, stranded off Caofeidian port in the same province.
Beijing has not allowed them to get off the vessel in the backdrop of increasing imported Covid-19 infections in the country, putting the physical and mental health of the sailors at risk.
There’s been no report of any 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,” said Zhao Lijian, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, at a regular ministry briefing on Wednesday when asked about the condition of the Indian sailors aboard Jag Anand.
“The local authorities of China have been in close communication with the 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 Australian coal - and reached Jingtang port in China on June 13.
Since that day, the ship has been anchored 2-3km away from the port.
HT had reported in November that while the local port authorities have not allowed “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 for medical attention.
A news report by India’s ANI in November had said the 23 Indian crew members on board were seeking help from the Indian government to return home. Some are suffering from health issues and the ship is running short of medicines, the report said.
However, that’s not the only merchant navy ship on which Indian sailors have been stranded for months.
At least 16 Indians are stuck on MV Anastasia off the Caofeidian port in Hebei province.
“Onboard the Anastasia are 18 seafarers - 16 of them Indian, one Russian and one Filipino - forced to work at sea for far longer that 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”.
An estimated 1,500 seafarers are stranded in Chinese harbours, the report added.