Crew members of ‘Jag Anand’ an Indian merchant ship, are seeking help to return home. They have been stuck at China’s northern port- Jingtang, with 23 Indian crew members on board since June.
After being assured of anonymity, the crew members contacted a media agency and gave them the details of their current situation. They described in brief how unpleasant their situation is, and how their medicines are dwindling, they added that many of them are suffering from health issues, subtly letting on to the dreadful situation.
“We boarded the ship in January. Currently, we are loaded with around 1.70 lakh tons of Australian coal. This ship was chartered by a private entity. We left Australia in May and arrived at the Jingtang port in China by June 13 and for five months we are here stuck at the Chinese port with no updates. We are 23 Indian crew members on board and living in a very unpleasant situation. We want to return to our homeland. Chinese port administration is not allowing us to unload our cargo here and they are not giving a reason either. We informed our company about the situation and they are trying to set up communication through diplomatic channels,” said a crew member over the phone.
“We want to go back to our homes, we have been on the job for over 15 months and haven’t seen our families. Many crew members are running short of medicines. We are afraid of the pandemic too. Our simple and humble request to the company’s management is to talk to the company which chartered the ship and allows us to unload cargo and go back home,” added another crew member.
Director General (DG) Shipping office has been informed by a senior official from the Mumbai-based Great Eastern Shipping Limited, proprietor of The Jag Anand merchant ship to take this matter to the Chinese counterpart.
An official from the Shipping Company said, “The company is doing all the possible efforts to sort the matter at the earliest, we have raised the matter with DG, Shipping, and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) too,”
Moreover, the seafarers suggest the company to seek another way and talk to Japan if the Chinese counterpart is not allowing to unload the cargo.
Another crew member said, “We are ready to sail the ship to the nearest Japanese port and change the crew member. But the company told us that all these efforts were under process,”
The crew members have informed that they are running short on first aid and medicines to treat the members that suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypertension. Some members were also injured during the journey, it is difficult for them to recover and receive treatment.
A letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was written by the family members of the mariners, regarding the severity of the situation and that they sought immediate relief.
The letter read, “Due to severance of diplomatic ties between China, the Australia vessel is on anchor since June 13. The Customs authorities have not cleared the concerning cargo. At present, most of the crew have ended their stipulated contractual obligation and been on board for more than a year, some of them even exceeding 15 months. Despite various attempts by the company through diplomatic resources, there has been no respite to crew sufferance who have been inflicted with not only physical stress but mental fatigue. During this time of the pandemic, families of the crew are alone which further adds to the aggravation of onboard staff. The deteriorating health of crew members is also a major concern with some being declared unfit by the company doctor.”
Due to changes in Chinese import rules and regulation on Australian coal, the 20 bulk carrier has to unload their Australian coal on the Chinese port over the last few months.