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23 Indian sailors stranded off China for over 6 months to return in a few weeks

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Cargo ship ‘MV Anastasia’, with 16 Indian nationals as its crew, is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since September 20.

After being stranded off China for more than six months, 23 Indian crew members on board the ship, MV Jag Anand, have been allowed to set sail for a port in Japan on Saturday evening, said Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Saturday. Being stuck at sea for more than six months amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the seafarers on both ships literally found themselves on a 'floating prison'.

"Our seafarers stuck in China are coming to India. Ship MV Jag Anand, having 23 Indian crew, stuck in China is set to SAIL toward Chiba, Japan, to carry out crew change, will reach India on 14th January," the Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways said in a tweet. He added that after reaching the Chiba Port in Japan on January 14, the seafarers will follow all procedure related to COVID-19 protocols and then fly back to India.

Along with Indian bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand, another ship, MV Anastasia, with 16 Indians onboard, was also stranded off China. The National Union of Seafarers of India said it was hopeful that the 'MV Anastasia' crew will also be accorded similar clearances soon as their anxious families in India await their return.

MV Jag Anand is on anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province of China since June 13 and it has 23 Indian sailors. MV Anastasia with 16 Indian nationals as its crew, is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since September 20.

Minister Mansukh Mandaviya acknowledged "the humanitarian approach of the Great Eastern Shipping Company towards the seafarers and standing by them in this crucial time!"

On December 30, 2020, he had said that Indian sailors stuck in China will be brought back soon as diplomatic talks are on with the neighbouring country. Two cargo vessels with Indian sailors on board have been on anchorage in Chinese waters as they were not allowed to unload their cargo, though some other ships have managed to do so.

"Diplomatic talks are going on for this successfully. Our seafarers will come to India soon," Mandaviya had said in reply to a query about sailors being stuck in China for the last seven months during a Cabinet briefing.

On December 25, China had said that there is no 'link' between the stranded Indian ship crew on its Chinese ports and its strained relations with India and Australia.

The statement had come a day after the External Affairs Ministry had said that two cargo vessels with a total of 39 Indians on board have been on anchorage in Chinese waters as they were not allowed to unload their cargo. "There is a considerable amount of stress on the crew members on account of this unprecedented situation," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said.

"Our Embassy in Beijing has been in constant touch with provincial and central government authorities in China, requesting that the ships be allowed to dock and/or the crew be allowed to be changed," he had said.

Asked about India's concern relating to the Indian crew members of the ships and whether China's decision on this issue has related to the current situation between India, China and Australia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin had last week told a media briefing that "we stated repeatedly that China has clear stipulations on quarantine measures".

"Concerning this, China has stayed in close communication with the Indian side and responding to their requests as well as providing necessary assistance for them," he had said.

"As far as I understand, China allows the crew to change while meeting certain quarantine conditions. But this Jingtang port is not in the list for such crew changes," he had said but did not refer to the 16 crew members of Caofeidian port.

China last month had blamed the freight forwarder of Jag Anand ship for the impasse, saying he is not letting the ship to leave.

Source: TNM 

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