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Fate of 16 Indian sailors on cargo ship MV Anastasia remains in the balance as China has again denied to give any assurance on the crew change for the ship which is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in northern China since 20th September. Sixteen Indian crew members on the ship are undergoing immense mental and physical sufferings with not even timely medical aid being provided to them by local Chinese authorities.

The crew told that Chinese side has denied the proposal of ship-to-ship transfer of crew and they haven't received any on it. They appealed to the authorities to help them as the situation is getting worse with each passing day and the crew is in depression. 

Hopes for the resolution of the impasse rekindled after India negotiated the passage of one ship, MV Jag Anand to Japan on 18th January this year which was stuck at Jingtang port since June 2020. After negotiations, cargo owner of Jag Anand allowed it to move to Japan for crew change but the cargo owner of Anastasia, HK Holdings, has refused to divert it to another port. 

The decision leaves Anastasia's sailors stranded after already enduring months at sea with medical emergencies and psychological turmoil. Indian Embassy in Beijing has been constantly trying to break this deadlock.

Chinese Foreign Ministry responding to a Prasar Bharati question on Monday said, Chinese competent authorities are in close communication with the Indian side, timely replying to the Indian sides requests and raising practical suggestions of crew change and we have been providing necessary convenience and assistance to the Indian side in accordance with our COVID-19 protocols. And as for the charterer, whether it will adjust its arrangement, it will entirely depend on itself. 

Previously also, China has been terming such a grave humanitarian crisis as an issue that was a commercial matter for the companies involved. Despite the humanitarian crisis deepening, Chinese govt is not impressing upon the cargo owner to let the ships leave the ports, technicalities being put aside.

The Indian crew on Anastasia lamented about lax attitude of local Chinese authorities, with some of them denied medical care for hours and even days despite symptoms including a broken hand. One of the staff's left wrist got dislocated, but he was allowed to get medical assistance only after 5 days of suffering and extreme pain after the Chinese side took undertaking from the company and his family that even if the situation gets worse, still he has to get back to ship, they told.

The Anastasia – a Panama registered vessel, which is hauling 90,000 tonnes of Australian coal is one among around 70 ships still waiting off the Chinese coast which have been blocked by China from entering in an apparent retaliatory measure towards Australian trade. 

The ships cannot leave because of commercial arrangements and for fear of being detained by Chinese authorities. As per reports, The Mediterranean Shipping Company, the operator of the Anastasia, has said that they cannot ask it to deviate to a port for a crew change, as the vessel could be arrested as a result. As reported, The Mediterranean Shipping Company said it had attempted to get the crew changed in Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea between August and December. The offers were rejected because of COVID-19 restrictions and the directions of charterers.



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