Stranded in Chinese Waters Since Sept 2020, When Will We Go Home?
MEA is closely in coordination with the Chinese authorities, who will be finalising the SOPs for a change of crew.
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My crew, 16 Indian nationals including myself, left in the MV Anastasia vessel carrying Australian coal on 20 July 2020. We reached China on 2 August 2020. Since then, we have been anchored near the Caofeidian Port in China.
Multiple dates were given to us for offloading our cargo, but they kept changing over and over owing to the coronavirus pandemic and consequent changes to international travel and shipments.
We have been anchored in the same place since September 2020. Not just us, 23 other Indians aboard MV Jag Anand were denied by Chinese officials to offload the cargo and are facing the same fate.
Though the Chinese authorities state that the reason for this delay is because of COVID protocol, we feel the delay is due to an ongoing trade dispute between China and Australia. Therefore, both vessels have been stationed at the port.
Luckily, for those aboard MV Jag Anand, the wait has ended as they are to return to India next week.
As the authorities cite COVID as the reason to not let us dock, they can give us the permission to divert our vessel to another country, so we can perform crew change. The crew has not been on shore for more than a year.
The sailors who were to be relieved after six or nine months based on the contract have extended their stay to 18 months because of the pandemic.
“I left from home with a 9-month contract, but it has been 18 months now. My family is worried about me and my health.”Gajanand Tandel, Able Seaman, MV Anastasia
Our families have been in constant touch with us as we have internet services. The company has been able to provide us with enough supply of water and food, so we do not have any issues. Yet, we long for home. The crew did not celebrate any festival because everyone’s spirit and emotions have been dampened.
We request the Indian government as well as the Chinese government to please have some mercy on us.
Poor Medical Facility
A major concern is that the MV Anastasia does not have a doctor on board. Most of my crew members are old and their physical health has been declining.
“I am over 60 years old and my body pains as the temperature here is -3 degree Celsius. There is no medical facility.”Gajanand Tandel, Able Seaman, MV Anastasia
The water quality in the ship is very poor and most of the crew members have developed rashes and skin infections.
Our families are worried about our mental health condition because of the isolation. All of us are physically and mentally drained.
A Change.org petition was started by family members to bring us back.
Indian Government’s Measures
The Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Beijing have been in continuous talks with their counterparts in China, but till now, there has been no positive response.
I just want to plead to the government that it is high time now and we cannot be patient any longer. We need a confirmation and a concrete date of our release. I just want to say that people are suffering.
So, it is high time now. We do not need any sympathy or empathy, we need a conclusion.
(In a press briefing on 14 January 2021, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that they are coordinating with Chinese authorities who will be finalising the SOPs of the affect in crew change. “For MV Anastasia, we're closely coordinating with the Chinese authorities who're finalising the process and the SOPs to affect crew change at anchorage. The ship's company is expected to initiate the process of crew change at the Chinese authorities' directions," he was quoted by the media as saying.)
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