India on Friday asked China to provide “urgent, practical and time-bound” assistance to 39 sailors on board bulk cargo vessel MV Jag Anand and MV Anastasia, which have been stranded in Jingtang and Caofeidian ports for several months now. Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said the Indian Embassy in Beijing was in close touch with the Chinese authorities in Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin.

The foreign ministry’s statement came hours after the National Human Rights Commission took suo motu cognisance of the condition of the stranded sailors and asked the government “to ensure immediate relief”. It said lack of rescue amounts to violation of human rights.

Twenty-three Indian sailors were on board MV Jag Anand, which has been anchored near Jingtang port in China’s Hebei province since June 13, 2020. Meanwhile, 16 others were on MV Anastasia, which has been off the port of Caofeidian, also in Hebei, since September 20.

The foreign ministry said that Beijing has not allowed the vessels to change crew members and stopped them from disembarking due to coronavirus restrictions. Earlier this week, China had said that the real reason for two Indian ships being stranded in Chinese waters was that the freight forwarder did not want to adjust plans for the sake of commercial interests.

“We have noted the statements of the Chinese side expressing their willingness to extend their assistance in this matter,” Srivastava said. “We expect that this assistance will be provided in an urgent, practical and time-bound manner, given the grave humanitarian situation that is developing on board the ships. There is a growing stress on the crew members on account of the long delay. Given this and our concern for the increasingly difficult conditions for our crew members, these two cases are being pursued vigorously.”

The spokesperson said several ships from other countries are also awaiting discharge of their cargo. “While the shipping companies are examining the logistics of sailing the ships away from their current points of anchorage, our embassy is liaising with relevant authorities in Tianjin for berthing approvals to facilitate the crew change,” he added. “We have also requested the shipping companies to ensure that they file in their plans for crew change at the earliest for approvals by the local Chinese authorities.”