The ship, 'Jag Anand', carrying a huge consignment of Australian coal to China, has been stuck at Jingtang port since June, with the crew members seeking immediate relief as the vessel remained in the queue since its arrival.
China on December 25 had said that there is no 'link' between stranded Indian ship crew on its Chinese ports and its strained relations with India and Australia.
The stalemate over an Indian ship with 23-member crew, which has been stuck outside a Chinese port since six months, is set to continue as China on Wednesday reiterated its reluctance for change of crew, citing the COVID-19 regulations.
The ship, ‘Jag Anand’, carrying a huge consignment of Australian coal to China, has been stuck at Jingtang port since June, with the crew members seeking immediate relief as the vessel remained in the queue since its arrival.
Their plight has been highlighted by the National Union of Seafarers of India, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Organisation in recent weeks.
The Indian Embassy here is also in regular communication with the local Chinese authorities to find a way out to arrange for the changeover of the crew as they have been stuck on the ship since June.
In addition to the crew of ‘Jag Anand’, the Indian Embassy has also taken up the plight of 16 Indian crew members of a Panamanian ship Anastasia in a similar situation at China’s Caofeidian port.
Asked whether China would allow the change of the crew of ‘Jag Anand’ on humanitarian grounds, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited the epidemic prevention measures.
“In China, there are clear requirements on epidemic prevention and control at ports and on quarantine of crew members. These are all based on science,” Zhao told a media briefing here on Wednesday while answering a question on the plight of the crew.
He said local authorities have been in close communication with the Indian officials. “They have responded in a timely manner to the Indian side’s appeals and provided necessary convenience and assistance while adhering to epidemic prevention rules,” he said.
Media reports said Jag Anand along with 21 other ships with over 400 crew members carrying over USD 200 million Australian coal have been held up at Chinese ports due to the current political slugfest between China 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.
The Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times earlier 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. China last month blamed the freight forwarder of ‘Jag Anand’ ship for the impasse, saying he is not letting the ship to return.
“China has never restricted the ship from leaving. The freight forwarder does not want to adjust the plans for the vessel due to commercial interests which is the real cause of the situation,” Wang Wenbin, another spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told the media last month.
Indian officials say the ship’s freight forwarder was not keen on the Chinese government’s suggestion to move the vessel to Tianjin port close to Beijing as it involves huge costs.
Also, the shipping company apprehends that it may lose the present position in the queue as it has waited along with 21 other ships near the port, according to officials.
Additionally, crew change involves 14-day quarantine for both incoming and outgoing staff members posing logistic problems besides their transportation in view of the flight bans, they said.