Indian sailors stranded in Chinese waters: MEA calls for urgent assistance

at 11:15 pm

New Delhi (NVI): India today said that a grave humanitarian situation is developing on board the two Indian ships — MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia — stranded in Chinese waters and called for “urgent, practical and time-bound” assistance to 39 Indian sailors stuck on these vessels.

“We have noted the statements of the Chinese side, expressing their willingness to extend their assistance in this matter. We expect that this assistance will be provided in an urgent, practical and time-bound manner, given the grave humanitarian situation that is developing onboard the ships,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said while responding to a media quert on the status of two vessels.

“The Indian bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand of Great Eastern Shipping company is on anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province of China since June 13, 2020 with 23 Indian nationals as crew on board. Another vessel, MV Anastasia, which has 16 Indian nationals as its crew, is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since September 20, 2020.

“Both these vessels have been waiting for discharge of their cargo. There is a growing stress on the crew members on account of the long delay. Given this and our concern for the increasingly difficult conditions for our crew members, these two cases are being pursued vigorously,” he said.

“We understand that there are several other ships from other countries also awaiting their turn for unloading their cargo,” Srivastava added.

He said that the Indian embassy in Beijing has repeatedly taken up these cases both with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also the local provincial authorities, requesting that the ships be allowed to dock and/or the crew be allowed to be changed. “They have been following up this matter for the last few months. The Indian Ambassador has personally taken up this issue with Vice Foreign Minister. The Ministry has also been following this issue with the Chinese Embassy,” he said.

The Chinese authorities have conveyed that on account of various COVID-19 related restrictions imposed by the local authorities, crew change is not being permitted from these ports. The Chinese MFA also conveyed in late November 2020 that while crew change from Jingtang port would not be feasible, the shipping company/agent may apply for crew rotation from Tianjin port in China, and that the local authorities would examine after receiving requests for the same. The concerned shipping companies have been asked to make crew change applications expeditiously, the MEA spokesman said.

While the shipping companies are examining the logistics of sailing the ships away from their current points of anchorage, the Indian Embassy is liaising with relevant authorities in Tianjin for berthing approvals to facilitate the crew change, he said. “We have also requested the shipping companies to ensure that they file in their plans for crew change at the earliest for approvals by the local Chinese authorities,” he added.

“We also understand that MV Anastasia is exploring the possibility of a crew change at sea at its current point of anchorage in Caofeidian. Our Embassy has yesterday written to Chinese authorities proposing this alternative and sought approval for the same,” he said.

Srivastava said that the Indian embassy in Beijing continues to remain in close and continuous touch with the Chinese authorities in Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin. The Ministry is also following up through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi for an early resolution, he said.

Notably, the Indian vessels are stranded in the Chinese waters amid simmering tensions between India and China over an escalating boder row in Easten Ladakh along LAC.