The All India Seafarer and General Workers Union, an Indian seafarer union, claimed that ships and other vessels with an Indian crew onboard are being barred from docking in Chinese ports, regardless of the ship’s ownership or purpose. This unofficial embargo on China-bound ships may result in them firing Indian sailors.

The sailors’ union has dispatched letters to both Sarbananda Sonowal (Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways) as well as S Jaishankar (Foreign Minister of India). The letters detailed China’s heavy handed activities and also warned that this carried the risk of more than 20,000 Indian sailors losing their jobs.

As for China’s motives behind this act, the President of the union Abhijeet Sangle believes that it hopes for the Indian sailors aboard International ships to be replaced by Chinese ones. This belief is not without reasoning as the South China Sea faces prodigious amounts of maritime commerce and in order to circumvent the ban in Chinese ports, shipping companies may well start dismissing Indian sailors.

China has tried this tactic before when it refused the entry of two International ships crewed by Indian sailors. The whole debacle left more than 40 crewmen waiting out in the sea for several weeks, said Sangle.

The Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar said that there has been no official declaration of any embargo or ban from the Chinese side. It can possibly be the zealous and narrow-minded nature of local port offcials and governors, rather than a scheme cooked up by the Chinese government as a whole. Though, given the opportunity of replacing Indian sailors withh its own, the CCP may take an interest and encourage such practices in its ports.