No aid for Indians on ‘floating prisons’ for six months

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 17

There is no relief in sight for 41 Indians stuck on two “floating prisons” off the Chinese coast due to an escalating trade conflict between China and Australia.

“The Indian Embassy in Beijing is in touch with the Chinese authorities. They have said crew change is not permitted from these ports due to local Covid restrictions,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava at the weekly media briefing here on Thursday.

Srivastava was asked about the fate of Indians aboard two ships. The first is the MV Jag Anand ship with 23 Indians carrying coal from Australia and not allowed to dock at Jiangtang Port since June 13. The other is MV Anastasia, with 18 Indians, also carrying coal from Australia and at Caofeidian anchorage since August 3.

“It is like a food delivery guy being hammered in a fight between neighbours,” said Abdulgani Serang, Secretary of the National Union of Seafarers of India.

“The Government continues to be in touch with the Chinese authorities to seek resolution and ensure their humanitarian needs are taken care of,” added Srivastava.

The ship owners have repeatedly attempted to relieve the crew but the Chinese have refused changeovers citing Covid restrictions.

The Australians are also at sea over the escalating dispute. Australian PM Scott Morrison is reportedly demanding answers over reports that China has blocked Australian coal exports in the latest trade dispute between Canberra and Beijing.

Chinese media outlet The Global Times has said China will not import coal from Australia for its power plants. Bilateral ties sharply deteriorated during the pandemic after Australia backed US demand for an independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic.

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