MARITIME Union national secretary Paddy Crumlin has demanded a meeting with representatives of BHP and BlueScope following the decision to dispense with the services of MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance.

As reported in DCN this week, the ships were used for shipping iron ore from Port Hedland to Port Kembla and then coal from Port Kembla into Asia (as part of a triangle operation) and the move to cut them is set to cost the jobs of around 80 mariners.

Mr Crumlin said the decision was “a national disgrace”.

“Many, many Australians have known someone who worked on the famous fleet of BHP iron boats, yet the company wants to end more than 100 years of proud trade by sending a couple of sneaky emails in early January,” he said.

The union says it has written to the company demanding answers.

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Mr Crumlin said the MUA remained concerned with BlueScope’s lack of consultation and discussion prior to the BHP announcement.

Mr Crumlin said the MUA had historically worked constructively with both BHP and Bluescope to meet cabotage requirements, including pay freezes during tough economic times.

He said the move was galling given the current shipping arrangements do not expire between BHP and Bluescope until June and his brief discussions with company management had shed no light on the reasons behind the decision.

The MUA has requested a meeting with BlueScope, BHP, maritime unions and the AWU to ascertain the real facts behind BHP’s decision to dump current shipping arrangements.

But a spokesperson for BHP defended the decision.

“These freight arrangements date back to a time when BHP was a major steel manufacturer and processor and were maintained for a period as part of the demerger of BHP Steel (now BlueScope Steel),” the spokesperson said.

“Since this time BHP’s business has changed and we no longer operate and manage freight vessels – including the contracting of crewing services. BHP is mindful of the impact the conclusion of this business will have on the crews of these ships. The employer of the crews, Teekay Shipping Australia, is supporting them through this change. The phase out of these arrangements will conclude in June 2019 and future freight arrangements will be a matter for BlueScope.”

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