The Maritime Union of Australia has expressed solidarity with the crew of the Araluen Spirit, who are taking a stand for their livelihood - and the broader principle of Australian jobs - by refusing to sail the vessel on its last Australian voyage.
Shell has announced it will remove the ship from the Australian coast and replace it with cheap flag of convenience ships and foreign labour in a bid to cut costs.
This is despite the fact the total maritime trade around Australia in refined petroleum products - petrol, diesel, jet fuel - grew by 38 per cent between 2004-5 and 2009-10.
The MUA is supporting each individual seafarer occupying the Araluen Spirit in their stand to protect their jobs in what is clearly still a profitable business.
"The MUA stands in solidarity with each of these seafarers and their individual decision to take a stand aboard the Araluen Spirit," MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.
"Shell is an economic colossus. The company made a global profit of $18.6bn USD in2010 - that's enough money to pay an Australian seafarer's annual wage every three minutes."
The MUA has written to Shell, asking them to sign a Memorandum of Agreement to seek a commitment regarding replacement of the vessel or the company's directing of Single Voyage Permits (SVPs) to an Australian-crewed tanker operator.
"The MUA believes there exists future opportunities for Shell or another operator to re-engage the Araluen Spirit or an appropriate sized tanker into the Australian licenced coastal trade," Mr Crumlin said.
"We are also calling on the Federal Government to step up to the plate and provide greater transparency on the significant number of single voyage permits used in Australia's coastal trade so we can determine where Australian workers can be employed instead."
Mr Crumlin said the risks associated with the greater use of foreign flagged ships have been highlighted by the Rena, which began spilling more than 300 tonnes of oil in New Zealand's pristine Bay of Plenty on October 5.
Mr Crumlin said both cases typified the 'race to the bottom' that has emerged in international shipping, reinforcing the need for comprehensive industry reform and as a result, the re-emergence of ships sailing under the Australian flag.
"The case of both the Rena and the Araluen demonstrate in clear terms why we need to clean up Australian shipping and make it harder for fly-by-night charlatans to abuse workers and the environment," he said.
"No doubt people will also recall the grounding of the Pasha Bulker in Newcastle in 2007 and the Shen Neng 1 just east of Great Keppel Island in 2010. Only comprehensive industry reform will lift the bar for workers, communities and the environment."