The situation of the seafarers stuck in China on Australian coal-carrying ships has worsened further as an Indian seafarer onboard on one of the 2 ships stranded there have attempted suicide.
Desperate to return to his family and being under severe mental stress an Indian seafarer stuck onboard MSC’s Anastasia attempted suicide. He was stranded on the ship along with other sailors since June 2020.
Suicide Attempt After Leave Denial
The seafarer had slit his wrist after he wasn’t granted permission to return to his family in India due to an ongoing diplomatic tussle between China and Australia as China isn’t allowing Australian coal carrying ships like Anastasia to dock in Chinese ports.
The Indian seafarer wanted to return to India to tend to his ailing wife and sons who were suffering from COVID. He along with 38 other Indian seafarers are stranded in Chinese waters under dire conditions since June last year.
The 47 old seafarer has been on the ship for 13 months as his term got extended because of covid restrictions. His initial contract was for 5 months. He desperately sought permission all through last month but was unable to get one and hence tried to end his life. The Ship’s Navigation Officer saved him at the nick of the time.
At present 2 ships – Jag Anand and MV Anastasia is stuck at Jingtang and Caofeidian
region of China for 207 days and 154 days respectively. The vessels were prevented from loading the Australian coal cargo while other flagged vessels could unload.
Stranded Seafarers Treated Worse Than Prisoners
“The ships were refused permission by the Chinese authorities to offload their cargo, and were not even allowed to send other sailors to relieve the crew,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi, a Indian parliamentarian.
“The 39 sailors have been left to their fate without much support from the central government, and their families are struggling to get them back. The families of the sailors, many of whom are based in Maharashtra, have been running from pillar to post with no help in sight”, said Priyanka.
The ships came to China at a crucial time when China-Australian relations worsened over covid issues and China banned Australian coal cargo but ships from Russia, Canada Europe could offload their coal cargo.
Marine Labour Consultant Gajanan Tandale said that the situation is worse than jail as the seafarers haven’t been able to set foot on land for 18 months.
“Even prisoners get parole holidays and are allowed to visit hospital on medical grounds”, Tandale added.
Seafarers’ Family Struck by Tragedies
While they were stuck on their ships, tragedies hit the seafarers families. Along with the seafarer who attempted suicide by slitting his wrist 2 other seafarers have had terrible tragedies in their family.
One seafarer from Goa lost his mother while the ship captain Erasmo Alvares himself has lost his father in law because of covid.
Another by the name Ashwin Tandale has missed his daughter’s birth.
MSC Making Crew Change Attempts
MSC Ship Management has been pushing hard for crew change of the stranded vessel Anastasia for more than 6 months now but they couldn’t due to change in regulations and charterers refusal for a deviation. They made fresh crew change attempts in December.
A statement issued by MSC said, “MSC has repeatedly requested during the ship’s voyage that the seafarers onboard should be relieved to return home to their families. These proposals have not yet been implemented by the chartering parties which determine the ship’s movements.”
‘We are stranded in the Chinese waters due to a trade war between Australia and China. Dear @DrSJaishankar, please help us go home’: Indian sailors aboard the MV ANASTASIA appeal to the government to take them home. https://t.co/83eQAgZeho pic.twitter.com/yIYIwLxDCY
— Change.org India (@ChangeOrg_India) December 16, 2020