India questions China’s delay in releasing ships
India said on Thursday that foreign ships had been allowed to enter Chinese ports and unload their cargo in the months during which two ships with dozens of Indian crew were unable to do so due to restrictions related to Covid-19.
According to the Foreign Ministry, a total of 39 Indian crew members of two cargo ships have been stranded in waters off the Chinese ports of Jingtang and Caofeidian for weeks, as authorities have not allowed the ships to unload their cargo. Other reports have said that there are more Indian crew members on about 20 ships trapped outside Chinese ports.
The situation is believed to be the result of a trade dispute between China and Australia, as most of these ships carry Australian coal. Reports have said that some 400 seafarers and around two million tonnes of Australian coal are trapped on ships outside of Chinese ports.
“We understand that some other ships, which arrived after the arrival of the Indian ships, have managed to unload cargo and leave. The reasons for this are not clear, ”Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava told a weekly press conference.
It said there were 23 Indian crew members on the MV Jag Anand bulk cargo ship, anchored near the Jingtang port in Hebei province since June 13. Another 16 Indian crew members were on the MV Anastasia, anchored near the Caofeidian port since 20 September. ships are waiting to unload cargo.
Both Jag Anand and Anastasia carry Australian coal. Chinese customs have not cleared Jag Anand’s cargo and local authorities have not allowed the crew to leave the ship, citing restrictions related to Covid-19. The charterer of the vessel has refused to allow him to sail to another port to relieve the crew.
Anastasia’s second officer, Gaurav Singh, told Australia’s ABC News that mental health problems, lack of medical support and declining drinking water quality had compounded the crew’s problems.
Srivastava said: “This unprecedented situation has caused a considerable amount of stress among the crew. Our embassy in Beijing has been in constant contact with the provincial and central government authorities in China. They request that the ships be allowed to unload their cargo and that the crew members be allowed to change ”.
Chinese authorities have said that crew change is not allowed at Jintang and Caofeidian ports due to Covid-19-related restrictions imposed by local authorities, it added.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that necessary assistance was being provided to the Indian crew. Srivastava said the Indian mission in Beijing will stay in contact with the Chinese authorities to “seek their facilitation and assistance, which may lead to an early resolution of the problem and help improve the situation for the crew.”
This development also occurs in the context of the border confrontation between India and China along the Royal Line of Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector, which has brought bilateral relations to an all-time low.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that local authorities are in communication with the Indian side and provided assistance “while meeting certain quarantine and epidemic prevention requirements.” However, it was not stated when the Indian seafarers will be allowed to abandon their ships.