A Chinese product tanker has been stuck for over seven weeks off the Indian east coast port of Kakinada while two rival ship managers fight over boarding an Indian master and crew.
The 12,700-dwt tanker Qian Tai 1 (built 2016) has been there since early July and is now at anchor in ballast, according to AIS reports.
VesselsValue lists the ship as owned by Hong Kong-based small tanker specialist Taihua Ship Management and commercially controlled by lesser known Star Dragon Shipping.
It is under the technical management of China and Singapore-based Seacon Ships Management with Seacon captain Wang Zeyan as master.
In July, lawyers for a previously unknown Singapore based ship manager, Oka Ship Management, petitioned the Andhra Pradesh High Court at Amravati to order Wang to allow a new Indian crew on board, with four top officers including captain Bhaskar, as well as an Indian cook.
No lawyer appeared for Seacon in the first legal round and the judge ruled on the basis of a ship management contract, affidavits and emails submitted by Oka.
The judge accepted the allegations that captain Wang's resistance to the new Indian crew could cost the owner "immensely" by delaying its departure for a load port in Indonesia, and that Oka had a valid ship management contract signed by the owner in June.
Singapore public records show that Oka was incorporated less than a week before the alleged new ship management contract was signed.
A lawyer for Oka told the court the owner would be initiating arbitration proceedings against Seacon over alleged breaches of contract.
A ruling dated 26 July by judge Venkata Ramana ordered captain Wang to allow captain Bhaskar and his Indian crew on board but stopped short of ordering him to relinquish control.
"This order [does] not in any manner inhibit or prohibit discharge of his duties as the master of the vessel by Mr Wang Zeyan, who shall have the assistance of this Indian crew," wrote the judge.
But the vessel remained at anchor as of 31 August, when Seacon had enlisted a new lawyer to argue its side.
Pandemic considerations apparently play some part in the impasse.
"[The Indian crew] has also undertaken to follow and observe all the protocols for this purpose including managing the Covid situation," wrote the judge.
The legal petition listed Seacon as defendant plus the Kakinada port authority and the local commissioner of customs as pro forma defendants.
VesselsValue lists Taihua with a fleet of eight small product tankers. AIS records show the fleet trading globally but with a focus on the Middle East Gulf to China trades.
Ship manager Seacon and its Indian lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Taihua and Seacon's rival ship manager Oka could not immediately be contacted.