The Maritime Union of Australia says national fuel security is being jeopardised by BP’s plans to slash more local jobs.
The oil and gas giant is dumping the 36 Australian crew of the fuel tanker British Loyalty this week, replacing them with cheap foreign operators who pay their crew as little as $2 an hour.
The vessel is currently alongside at the Bulwer Island refinery in Brisbane for the last time.
It comes as BP slashes an extra 360 Aussie jobs this month when it shuts Bulwer Island, which is one of the East Coast’s main local suppliers of fuel.
These cuts make Australia dangerously reliant on foreign suppliers. The country stocks less than 3 weeks’ worth of fuel, while service stations hold only 7 days supply.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith says Aussie seafarers’ jobs don’t have to go.
“900,000 tons of refined product is being moved from Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia to the East Coast each year which is more than enough to keep the British Loyalty working the coast and keep supply in Australian hands,” Mr Smith said.
“These jobs are being replaced by foreign shipping companies who routinely exploit their crews and pay them as little as $2 an hour. There are also obvious risks to our pristine environment and national security.”
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said it was vital for the community to draw a line in the sand as this would be the third tanker to go in nearly as many months.
“The crew of the British Loyalty are decent, honest, hardworking Australians,” he said.
“They just want to feed their kids, pay their mortgages, and work under Australian conditions. Instead, BP wants to give them the sack and replace them with foreign crew on as little as $2 an hour.”
British Loyalty crew member Matthew Richardson says losing local control means an accident at a refinery in Singapore could soon cripple Australia.
“You could bring a country to its knees in a week, without even starting a war,” Mr Richardson said.
“If there’s no fuel, the mines aren’t working, the farms aren’t working, the trucks aren’t getting your produce to the supermarkets.”
The MUA says foreign tankers pose an enormous threat to the Australian coastline.
Despite the Hong Kong-owned Atlantic Blue running aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 2009, BP was happy to use it for seven domestic voyages along the WA coast in 2014 and 2015.
“We’ve already seen ships coming through without pilots – there was one recently coming through the Barrier Reef without a pilot so it’s going to end up destroying the reef,” British Loyalty crew member Chris Harrison said.