Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin put the onus on the freight forwarder saying that it doesn’t want to adjust the plan for the vessel due to commercial interests, which is the real cause of the situation. He further said that Chinese local authorities have been in close contact with the Indian side and have responded to their requests timely. He added that China will immediately assist in case of any emergency need based on any receipt of any such requests in compliance with epidemic prevention regulations, including providing necessary material supplies.
Wang’s remarks came amid mounting concerns about the sailors onboard following statements from the International Transport Workers’ Federation and others including the National Union of Seafarers of India.
Indian Embassy in Beijing told Prasar Bharati that it has been in contact with the provincial government of Hebei province where Jingtang port is located and taken up the plight of the Indian crew. Hebei government in its response said the ship is in the queue for berthing and crew change cannot be allowed due to strict protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provincial govt also offered to provide any medical assistance to the crew in case of any emergency and stated that the vessel can leave if it wishes to. The response of the Hebei government has been conveyed to the shipping company.
The ship carrying a huge consignment of Australian coal to China has been stuck at Jingtang port since June, waiting for permission to unload the cargo. The 23 stranded crew members sought immediate relief as the vessel remained in the queue since its arrival and put a heavy toll on their mental and physical well-being.