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Traders at odds with China import ban keep coal cargoes in limbo

Seafarers and cargoes are stuck in a tug of war between China's ban on Australian coal and buyers who will not let them divert to other ports. An estimated 1,480 seafarers are stranded off the coast of China, many for several months.

Coal carrier pictured off the coast of Newcastle, Australia. | Photo: David Gray/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Seafarers stuck for months on vessels carrying Australian coal off China's coast are trapped between authorities who won't let them unload their cargoes and buyers who won't let them leave.

Worsening relations between Beijing and Canberra have stranded 74 vessels, about 8.1 million tons of coal, and an estimated 1,480 mariners off Chinese ports, according to an analysis of shipping data by Bloomberg. The original charterer of two of the vessels wants them to sail somewhere else to relieve the exhausted seafarers, but so far the traders who own the cargo won't agree.

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