UNIONS for Australian officers and engineers have hit out at BHP, saying the mining giant has “abandoned the last vestiges of its commitment to the Australian shipping industry”.

In a joint statement from the Australian Institute of Marine Power Engineers and the Australian Maritime Officers’ Union, it was stated BHP had on 10 January told the unions that it was dumping the last two Australian-crewed ships that carry iron ore from Port Hedland to the Port Kembla steelworks.

According to the unions, more than 70 Australian officers and seafarers from the vessels Mariloula and Lowlands Brilliance are to lose their jobs while BHP is to use foreign crews to carry the same product between the same ports.

Mariloula (IMO 9434553) is a Marshall Islands-flagged bulker that was launched in 2008. It is currently anchored off Hong Kong.

Lowlands Brilliance (IMO 9227003) is flagged in Malta and was launched back in 2002. The vessel left Hay Point last week and is bound for Dandong.

The two ships have been operating in Australia under transitional general licenses.

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The unions have condemned the move to no longer use the ships and called on the federal government to intervene.

According to the unions, the federal government’s temporary licence scheme makes it easy for BHP and BlueScope to quit Australian shipping in favour of foreign crewed ships.

“The Australian crews on the two ships agreed to a pay freeze from 8th October 2014 specifically to help the steelworks return to profitability,” the union statement read.

“BHP reported that its Iron Ore division made AUD$12bn in profits in 2017-18.

“BlueScope Steel reported that its profits were AUD$1.5 Billion in 2017-18. These companies have no financial reason to return these ships and dump these 70 mariners on the beach.”

Comment has been sought from BHP.

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