After nearly 40 years sailing the coast for BHP, then BlueScope Steelworks, the last remaining example of Australian shipbuilding in use, the Iron Monarch, will make its final voyage from Port Kembla today.
BlueScope this year decided to transport approximately 650,000 tonnes per year of hot rolled coil feed for the Western Port production lines from Port Kembla via rail, despite spending some $17.5 million on a refit for the Iron Monarch in 2011.
Maritime Union of Australia SNSW Branch Secretary Garry Keane believes the decision to sell the Iron Monarch is not only sad, it is also wrong.
“When the refitted Iron Monarch sailed back into Port Kembla on June 1 last year, it did so to much understandable fanfare and media coverage,” Mr Keane said.
“Yet she only worked for a total of nine weeks, doing the same run to Western Port that she had done every week since she was built in Whyalla in 1973, before BlueScope decided that she would be layed up then sold.
“Spending $17.5 million on a refit only to then sell the vessel for around $5 million does not sound like a great deal.
“The refit gave Iron Monarch at least another ten years of service, and yet she is now being sold off.
“The fact is that the decision by BlueScope was the wrong decision. We believe it is undoubtable that the company will soon run out of capacity by rail and will then seek to use Flag Of Convenience vessels, with foreign crews, to pick up the shortfall.
This is a good example of the requirement for areform of the Australian Shipping Industry and the need to keep more Australian flagged and manned vessels on the coast. It is a shame BlueScope didn’t wait a few more months to see the benefits of the proposed shipping reform.