1500 Mariners from 74 Ships are Prisoners of Trade War


  • Desperate mariners on ships stranded for months by China’s effective ban on Australian coal imports.
  • They are being prevented from leaving by a stand-off between a complex network of shipping firms.
  •  A catch-22 in maritime law allows importers to insist the ships not take their cargo elsewhere on pain of forcibly “arresting” the ship as though it were a person.
  • Repeatedly request for permission to divert its ship Anastasia, which is stuck at the Chinese port of Caofeidian, to another country to change crew but has been rebuffed.

A recent news article published in the Brisbane Times written by Nick Bonhady, brings to light about the struggling seafarers who are held in the foreign soil due to complex network of shipping firms.

74 vessels held up

A Bloomberg analysis of shipping data suggests about 74 vessels, carrying about 8.1 million tonnes of coal from Australia, are in limbo.

This is because of China’s decision, reported in state media, to allow power stations to import coal from any country “except for Australia”.

1500 mariners at sea for 2 years

As a result about 1500 mariners, some of whom have been at sea for nearly two years because of COVID-19-related restrictions, have been unable to get off the vessels.

Plea for help

“We just want to request … on humanity ground [sic] please release us,” said Gaurav Singh, 29, an officer on the Anastasia, where several crew members are suicidal after waiting for about five months.

“Our families are waiting desperately for us; we want to reunite with them.”

Vessel blocked due to Covid 19 

China has blocked vessels, including the Anastasia, from changing crew in its ports, attributing the move to concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19.

A list of hardships faced by the mariners

  • Even a doctor has not been allowed on board to assess crew members with skin lesions.
  • Crew members distressed by the possibility of an indefinite voyage.
  • Proposals to let the ships go to a third country to change crews have also hit a wall.

No comments from the parties

Both Jiangsu Steamship Company, the charterer of the Anastasia, and E-Commodities Holdings, a trading company listed in Hong Kong reported to be the intended receiver of the ship’s cargo, declined to comment.

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Source: Brisbane Times


  1. It is really bad to be stranded onboard as in an island.
    I myself was stuck at off Basra after Iran declared blockade when Shah of Iran was thrown out and religious leaders , Ayathollah Khomenie took over the rule . We were stuck over there for 4 months with Iraq bound power plant equipment from japan.
    Had to survive on last bit of provision and use make shift cooking arrangement with kiln made out of cut drum. Some left over pallets were used as Firewood. Were Running low on Diesel oil and Generators were operated minimum duration for essential use and shut down. The only relief was, we were able to catch enough fish with make shift fishing hooks and some stolen from our life boat stock.
    Communication was nil. No internet like today, no phone call , no letters .
    Families were really worried and making panic call to our office.
    I have gone through it and know, how bad it is for those stranded brothers, seafarers .
    It is certainly bad.
    Hope there could be some international pressure on China to take a softer stand.


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