China is vague about why vessels that carried Australian coal to its ports can’t unload their cargo. “We’re all depressed; our mental health is deteriorating,” one sailor said.
By Yan Zhuang
- Dec. 26, 2020
MELBOURNE, Australia — For the past six months, Virendrasinh Bhosale, a seafarer from India, has been trapped on a hunk of metal floating off China’s eastern coast.
He is desperate to see his 5-year-old son. “Every night I dream about him and I wake up crying in bed,” he says.
Mr. Bhosale is one of 23 crew members stuck aboard a cargo ship, the Jag Anand, off the port of Jingtang in Hebei Province since June. The ship is carrying about 160,000 tons of Australian coal but has not been granted clearance to unload its cargo.
Crews on an estimated 70 ships loaded with seven million to 10 million tons of Australian coal have not been allowed to disembark in China, according to commercial tracking data. China has cited various factors like the coronavirus and environmental issues. But Beijing has effectively banned Australian coal as tensions between the two countries intensify.
Now, the crewmen appear to be caught in the middle of a geopolitical feud with hundreds of millions of dollars of paid-for coal hanging in the balance.
Untangling who, or what company, is responsible for giving the vessels the green light to leave is difficult. But in the meantime, an estimated 1,400 seafarers are believed to be stranded, according to Australia’s maritime union, and the crews’ health is apparently deteriorating.
“Most of the guys, they don’t come out from their cabins and they are thinking about the worst case possible,” said Gaurav Singh, the navigating officer of the Anastasia, another ship languishing at a Chinese port, Caofeidian, about 31 miles southwest of the Jag Anand.
Eighteen crew members are on board, said Mr. Singh, who like Mr. Bhosale spoke to The New York Times via WhatsApp, a messaging service. “One of the guys tried to commit suicide,” he said, adding: “It’s terrifying. We all are scared.”
Last year, according to government statistics, Australia exported nearly $10.4 billion worth of coal to China. Though that coal helps fuel China’s voracious economic needs, deteriorating political ties have choked off one conduit.
In April, Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. A furious China followed over several months with informal bans on a host of Australian goods, including barley, wine and timber. In June, ships hauling Australian coal across the ocean began to be stranded at several Chinese ports, according to analysis from Bloomberg.
More on this from The New York Times.
Personal note….. SOLVE THIS…NOW!!!