China Bans All Indian Seafarers – Union Seeks Government Intervention

The All-India Seafarer and General Workers Union raised allegations that China has at present imposed an unofficial ban on all Indian seafarers.

It is “forbidding” the entry of all vessels that have Indian crew members on them. The Union has sought the central government’s aid in saving thousands of jobs of Indian seafarers, as companies are not recruiting them for the China-bound commercial ships.

In a letter addressed to the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union explained that the move has been detrimental and “around 20,000 seafarers” face job losses.

The Union Government also gave a written letter to the Directorate General of Shipping and the Ministry of External Affairs.

The letter further stated, “The All Indian Seafarer Union is forwarding an earnest request to the higher authorities to give their undue attention and look into the serious issue. The request is to help us save the careers of our seafarer brothers”.

Port of Xiamen
Representation Image

The working president of the Union, Abhijeet Sangle, informed the media that they forwarded a letter request separately to the Foreign Minister S Jaishankar. It also requested the Foreign Minister to take immediate action on the issue.

Sangle, claimed that the move to be China’s ploy to isolate Indian seafarers to provide better prospects to their sailors. He further added that some of the Indian sailors encountered a similar issue earlier in the year 2021 when China forbade two foreign ships with Indian crew from berthing at their port. “Due to this, our crew of more than 40 members are stranded off in China for many weeks,” he further added.

As per the Union, about 80% of the seafarers onboard different ships travel from India, and “without these seafarers and the vessels, the shipping industry will face a grave situation, will collapse. It will be a disastrous sight”.

Indian sailors hold a significant and dominant force in the global shipping industry. India sent around 2.4 lakh seafarers annually who work on both Indian as well as foreign ships.

According to Directorate General of Shipping, Amitabh Kumar, the office hasn’t received any official communication about the ban from either the Chinese Government or the Ministry of External Affairs.

Kumar further told media persons, “Our data doesn’t imply anything as said. These are some personal opinions of certain people. We don’t entertain every view.”

Ministry of External Affairs sources also denied any information of the letter.

This, however, is not the first time China reported such an incident. Last year too, major trade wars between China and Australia left more than 50 vessels stranded off the China Sea. These vessels had a considerable number of Indian seafarers on board.

Reportedly, China didn’t allow any vessels to either dock or leave their ports. They cited ‘COVID-19 concerns’ for this. The workers of a particular vessel, MV Anastasia, were stuck since September last year and were ultimately released in February 2021 after India pursued the case firmly. Around 16 Indian sailors were aboard the vessel.


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