The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has opposed BHP’s decision to remove Australian crew members from two iron ore carrying vessels.

MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance are used to transport iron ore from Port Hedland in Western Australia to BlueScope’s steelworks in Port Kembla, Australia, and to China.

According to ITF, BHP’s decision will result in the loss of 80 Australian seafarers’ jobs and will eventually end over 100 years of iron ore shipping services offered by Australian crew to BHP and BlueScope steelworks.

The decision will see the replacement of Australian crew with foreign crew on Flag of Convenience (FoC) vessels, said ITF.

ITF Seafarers’ Section chair Dave Heindel said: “For over 100 years, Australian crew have serviced the iron ore trade between Port Hedland and Australia’s steelmakers, BHP’s decision destroys one of the oldest national domestic shipping supply chains in Australia.

“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.”

“BHP’s decision destroys one of the oldest national domestic shipping supply chains in Australia.”

BHP currently operates around 1,500 vessels on charter every year and most of those vessels are FoC vessels.

Workers on-board FoC vessels are claimed to earn very low wages, receive inadequate food and clean drinking water, work for longer durations and face other problems.

ITF cabotage task force chair James Given 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.”