Today's announcement that BlueScope Steel is expected to terminate the services of its steel carrier Iron Monarch later this year is another kick in the guts for Port Kembla and Western Port maritime workers.
BlueScope today said that from later this year, the company will transport approximately 650,000 tonnes per year of hot rolled coil feed for the Western Port production lines from Port Kembla via rail. The company also said the Iron Monarch would be sold.
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) SNSW Branch Secretary Garry Keane said today's announcement would mean around 60 additional job losses in seafaring and stevedoring at Port Kembla, following on from the 130 jobs lost as a result of the company's restructure last year.
"The MUA believes there are ways to keep the operation running. We don't understand why Bluescope is scrapping a vessel on which they have just spent $17 million," Mr Keane said.
MUA Victorian Branch Secretary Kevin Bracken said 40 jobs were in jeopardy at Western Port, following on from the 200 jobs lost through the restructure.
"It's a real kick in the guts to our workforce. Jobs are hard to come by at the moment and this makes a bad situation worse," Mr Bracken said.
The MUA will hold meetings with Patrick Stevedores in Western Port on Friday and in Port Kembla on Monday to discuss the impact.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the union is in a discussion with key ship-owners and will be talking to the Government about ways the Iron Monarch could be retained in service in some newcapacity to service Australian shipping requirements.
In addition, Mr Crumlin said today's announcement by BlueScope was further evidence that the Federal Government's proposed shipping reform legislation can't arrive soon enough.
"The MUA believes Australian-flagged ships have an important part to play in delivering efficient, low-carbon transportation on coastal routes in the future," Mr Crumlin said.
"We have long been one of the world's largest shipping nations but we lost critical momentum in this industry during the Howard years.
"If implemented properly, shipping reform will be good for the domestic economy - providing surety of investment, regular scheduling and the efficient and effective utilization of ships.
"It would also mean we can develop the critical shortage in maritime skills that Australia as a trading and shipping nation so desperately needs."