India has asked China to allow two Indian freighters stranded for months near two Chinese ports because of the pandemic to rapidly unload their cargoes or replace their 39 crew members, an official said Friday.
“There is growing stress on the crew members on account of the long delay,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said. The vessels are among ships from various countries waiting to unload their cargoes at Jintang and Caofeidian ports, Srivastava said.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Srivastava said Chinese authorities have conveyed that a crew change is not permitted at the ports because of COVID-19-related restrictions. Beijing has suggested that the shipping company may apply for a crew rotation at Tianjin port, he said.
The MEA spokesperson said the Indian Embassy in Beijing continued to remain in close and continuous touch with the Chinese authorities in Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin, adding the government is also following up on the matter through the Chinese Embassy here for “an early resolution”. He said the Indian Embassy has repeatedly taken up the issue with both the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs and the local provincial authorities, requesting that the ships be allowed to dock and/or the crew be allowed to be changed.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said local authorities have been maintaining close communication with the Indian side and providing necessary facilities and assistance.
“Some Chinese ports allow crew changes under the premise of complying with the relevant epidemic prevention regulations, but Jintang port and Caofeidian port are not included in this list. It is up to the freighter to decide whether to adjust its operating arrangements,” Wang said last week.
The Indian cargo vessel MV Jag Anand of Great Eastern Shipping Co. has been at anchor near Jingtang in Hebei province since June 13 with 23 Indian crew members on board. Another vessel, MV Anastasia, with 16 Indian crew members, has been near Caofeidian since Sept. 20. Both are waiting to discharge their cargoes before leaving the ports.