By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-15 15:47:04
Maritime workers staged protests on Friday in front of BP’s Melbourne Headquarters following the company’s decision to lay off the crew of one of Australia’s last local tankers.
According to maritime union sources, the 36 crew members of the British Loyalty are set to be replaced with foreign laborers working for as little as $2 an hour. This is the third Australian tanker in the last 12 months to halt operations, leaving only two local tankers for coastal transportation.
The British Loyalty will leave Australia for Singapore where it will be re-absorbed into BP’s international shipping network.
The decision comes as BP shuts down Bulwer Island, a large East Coast domestic fuel supplier. An estimated 360 Australian jobs will be lost as a result of the closure.
Australia is highly reliant on gasoline imports with over 90 percent of fuel supplies coming into the country from foreign sources.
With the prospect of more foreign workers operating in Australian waters, the union also expressed strong concern over mariner safety qualifications. The British Loyalty has been known to navigate frequently over large stretches of the Great Barrier Reef and the union worries that a catastrophic environmental disaster could result from underqualified seafarers.
David Heindel Secretary-Treasurer of the United States Seafarer’s International Union recently stated, “The Gulf of Mexico disaster taught us that you can’t cut corners to save a few pennies. Instead, you want the best qualified, best trained professionals onboard your vessels.”
In 2010 a Chinese bulk coal carrier run aground on the Great Barrier Reef creating the largest grounding scar to date and releasing heavy fuel oil into the surrounding waters.