The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday, 4 February, said that the Chinese authorities have given clearance for a change of crew for the 16 stranded Indian soldiers on board a cargo vessel, MV Anastasia, anchored near a Chinese port since September.
Sixteen India sailors have been stranded on the ship at the Chinese port of Caofeidian since 20 September.
“After sustained follow up by our embassy in Beijing, the Chinese central authorities have conveyed their clearance to the local foreign office in Tangshan and port authorities for the transfer of crew of MV Anastasia," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, as quoted by NDTV.
“The shipping company's agent, we understand, has submitted a request to the local port authorities and is coordinating with them on the modalities for crew change at Caofeidian port. We hope the crew change can now be effected at the earliest,” he said.
‘Left Home for 9 Months, It’s Been 18 Months Now’: Why the Ship Was Stranded
According to IANS, having been at sea for more than 18 months, the seafarers on the ship were caught in a political tussle between China and Australia.
Reporting for The Quint’s ‘My Report’ team, Navigation Officer, MV Anastasia in January in a video message had urged the Indian and Chinese authorities to “have mercy.”
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
“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 told The Quint, adding that several crew members were in need of medical attention.
In January, the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) had expressed hope for MV Anastasia after another ship, MV Jag Anand, that was also stranded with 23 crew members for over six months allowed to set sail for a port in Japan on 9 January.
Several of the crew members of MV Jag Anand were from Mumbai, Thane and Palghar regions of Maharashtra and their families and other seafarers had made a series of appeals to the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding his intervention to secure their safe passage home.
(With inputs from NDTV and IANS.)
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