India called China to help the 39 crew of the stranded cargo vessels MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia. The ships have been stuck for months near Jingtang and Caofeidian ports.
Accordinng to the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava:
"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"
However, Mr. Srivastava also highlighte that there are more ships, from other countries, that are awaiting discharge of their cargo.
As for China, it refuses reports that the ships are being held offshore in a trade dispute with Australia. Additionally, India claims that the Chinese authorities have conveyed to them that due to COVID-19 restrictions, crew changes are not being permitted from these ports.
Earlier, MSC Shipping, as the technical operator of the Anastasia, said that it attempted crew changes in Hong Kong in June and August, but they were blocked by COVID restrictions.
Moreover, Japan approved a crew change in August, but it was not implemented. After that, more efforts came to organize a crew change in Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Busan, all of which were also refused.
According to MSC, it had been suggested that the ship sail to Japan, where a crew change might be allowed while the Chinese authorities suggested the ships might apply to the Tianjin port in China.
However, these options would require the vesels to leave their current ports and lose their place in line to offload their cargo.
Finally, back in November, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) urged the governments of China, India and Australia to collaborate and urgently end the stalemate regarding the berthing of the coal-carrying vessels in Chinese ports.
According to ITF Seafarers’ and Inland Navigation Section Coordinator, Fabrizio Barcellona, the plight of the 23 seafarers on board the Jag Anand and the 18 on the Anastasia has shown how important it is for governments to take action on the crew change crisis before extreme situations like this developed.
"All governments – be it flag States, port States, or the seafarers’ home countries – need to lift their game to make it easier to perform needed crew changes of this tired and fatigued workforce. Government restrictions and lack of coordination between different government agencies remains the main barrier to getting crew changed"
said Mr. Barcellona.
In October, the ITF and the International Chamber of Shipping estimated that there were at that point more than 400,000 seafarers trapped working aboard the world’s cargo vessels beyond their initial contracts. There is speculation that the number could finally be slowly falling, as more employers perform expensive crew changes.