The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) expressed opposition to the decision of BHP to dump Australian crew from two vessels that carried iron ore from Port Hedland in Western Australia to steelworks in Port Kembla and to China.
The decision will see 80 Australian seafarers lose their jobs, ending more than 100 years of Australian-crewed iron ore shipping servicing BHP and BlueScope steelworks, to be replaced by foreign crew on Flag of Convenience (FoC) vessels.
“For over 100 years, Australian crew have serviced the iron ore trade between Port Hedland and Australia’s steel makers, BHP’s decision destroys one of the oldest national domestic shipping supply chains in Australia,” said ITF Seafarers’ Section chair Dave Heindel.
“Seafarers aboard the MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance have been discarded, left high and dry. It is disturbing that BHP has initiated this action six months before the expiry of the charter, with next to no notice to the unions. The ITF condemns the move and calls on BHP to reverse this decision,” he said.
The ITF strongly supports Australian cabotage arrangements and the right of Australians seafarers to work in the domestic trade employed under Australian conditions.
James Given, chair of the ITF’s cabotage task force said: “The ITF has consistently opposed the alarming use of legal loopholes to circumvent national legislation that is intended to secure the rights of Australian seafarers and their entitlements in Australia’s domestic shipping trade.
“Based on information we’ve received, BHP and BlueScope have had plans to remove Australian seafarers from these two vessels and operate with foreign crews well in advance of the notice that our Australian affiliates received.
“This neglect is unacceptable and not in line with BHP’s stated commitment to working with integrity and respect. The ITF and our maritime affiliates worldwide, strongly reject the company’s behaviour which seems orchestrated to avoid accountability in Australia,” he said.
BHP annually charters around 1,500 vessels, majority of which are FoC vessels, with some vessels not covered by ITF agreements leaving seafarers exposed to exploitation and abuse.
“As a leader in the global transport and logistics industry and a participant in the UN Global Compact initiative, there is an expectation that BHP sets positive trends and not promote a race to bottom for transport of BHP product in domestic and international trade,” said Given.
“The ITF stands firmly beside our Australian affiliates and the seafarers on these vessels. We call on BHP to immediately meet with the unions to rectify the matter back to the status quo, and invite the company to work with the ITF to ensure protections for all seafarers in their global supply chain,” he concluded.