India today called for "urgent, practical and time-bound" assistance to 39 stranded Indian sailors on board two ships in Chinese waters considering the "grave" humanitarian situation developing in the vessels.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Indian bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand has been on anchorage near Jingtang port in Hebei province of China since June 13 and it has 23 Indian sailors.
Another vessel, MV Anastasia, with 16 Indian nationals as its crew is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since September 20, he said.
Mr Srivastava said both these vessels have been waiting for discharge of their cargo and 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 responding to a media query on the matter.
Mr Srivastava 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 MEA is also following up on the matter through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi for "an early resolution".
"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 on board the ships," Mr Srivastava said.
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.
"They have been following up this matter for the last few months. The Indian Ambassador has personally taken up this issue with the Vice Foreign Minister. The Ministry has also been following this issue with the Chinese Embassy," Mr Srivastava said.
He said the Chinese authorities have conveyed that on account of various COVID-19-related restrictions imposed by the local authorities, change of crew is not being permitted from these ports.
"While the shipping companies are examining the logistics of sailing the ships away from their current points of anchorage, our embassy is liaising with relevant authorities in Tianjin for berthing approvals to facilitate the crew change," Mr Srivastava said.
He said the shipping companies have been requested to ensure that they submit their plans for crew change at the earliest for approvals by the local Chinese authorities.
"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.
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