China on Tuesday said it was providing “convenience” within the permissible COVID-19 limits to the 23-member crew of the Indian ship stranded at a Chinese port for five months with Australian coal.
The ship “Jag Anand” carrying a huge consignment of Australian coal to China has been stuck at China’s Jingtang port since June with the crew members seeking immediate relief as the vessel remained in the queue since arriving in June this year.
Their plight has been highlighted by the National Union of Seafarers of India, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and International Maritime Organisation, according to a statement by ITF-Asia Pacific Region.
Asked about the ITF expressing grave concerns over the plight of the Indian sailors onboard the ship, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the media: “As I understand, China has clear regulations on ports epidemic prevention and control and crew members quarantine requirement and as much as the regulations allow, we are providing convenience to these crew members.”
“As for the specifics, I would still refer you to the competent Chinese authorities or relevant local government,” he said.
Officials of the Indian Embassy here said the plight of the Indian crew has been taken up with the provincial government of the Hebei province where the port is located since September this year. They said the Hebei government in its response has said the ship is in the queue for berthing and crew change cannot be allowed due to strict protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It offered to provide any medical assistance to the crew in case of any emergency and stated that the vessel can leave if it wishes to, officials said, adding that the response of the Hebei government has been conveyed to the shipping company.
China on Monday said it has no information on reports about the ship.
Relations between Australia and China in the past few months nose-dived after Australia 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. Apart from this, China appears to be irked by a law Australia passed in 2018 that banned covert foreign interference in domestic politics and made industrial espionage for a foreign power a crime.
The laws offended the nation’s most important trading partner, China.
Recently, the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times reported that China had asked traders to stop buying at least seven categories of Australian products: coal, barley, copper ore and concentrate, sugar, timber, wine and lobsters.
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