Updated: February 1, 2021 9:52:22 pm
The fate of 16 Indian sailors of a cargo ship stranded outside a Chinese port for six months remain uncertain as China on Monday remained noncommittal about when their ordeal would end. The ship ‘MV Anastasia’ has been on anchorage near Caofeidian port in northern China since September 20, waiting to discharge its cargo. The ship is carrying Australian coal.
This is the second Indian ship to suffer such a fate. Earlier, another ship Jag Anand with 23 Indian sailors, after a six-month-long wait to unload its Australian coal cargo had to travel to a Japanese port to change the stranded crew following refusal by Chinese officials citing COVID-19 protocols.
Asked how long China would take to permit the ship to unload the cargo and complaints of the crew members not getting medical aid in time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing that Chinese officials are in close touch with the Indian side by replying timely to the Indian side’s requests” and providing practical suggestions of a crew change.
“We have been providing necessary convenience and assistance to the Indian side in accordance with our COVID-19 protocols,” he said but gave no indication when the ship would be permitted to unload the cargo. It is not clear why China is delaying permission for the ships to unload cargo.
In December last year, Wang denied that there was any link between the situation of Indian crew on two stranded ships at Chinese ports and its strained relations with India and Australia.
Relations between Australia and China in the past few months nose-dived after Canberra barred Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies from its national 5G network over national security concerns. China also resented Canberra’s push for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in April. Reports from Australia say China has been restricting a number of Australian exports, including coal.
Meanwhile, ‘Jag Anand’ which changed its crew at a Japanese port reportedly returned to join the queue to unload its cargo at Jingtang port. The shipping company reportedly spent over USD one million to arrange crew change through Japan.
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