The sit-in by MUA members on board the Tandara Spirit has almost approached two weeks with the ship still at anchor in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.
Both the off going and joining crews have remained steadfast in their determination to fight for their jobs and for the bluewater industry.
The union was informed by Teekay recently that Vitol will “hand back the Tandara Spirit in January 2015” yet to the shock of the 36 seafarers who work on the vessel a plan of stealth was hatched by the company whereby it would leave Australia two days later and dump the Australian crew, unemployed, in Singapore.
The company has ordered the crew to sail twice, once on Friday evening, once on Saturday morning since the Fair Work Commission on Friday afternoon ordered the workforce to cease its industrial action.
Both times the crew advised that they wouldn't be sailing until management fronted up and told them what was happening with their jobs.
They also advised that the MUA should attend the meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Monday.
While this ship has laid idle for the past 11 days, Vitol has engaged a foreign crewed vessel to carry the cargos that the Tandara Spirit would and should be carrying.
The foreign crewed vessel is paying the foreign crew $2 an hour.
The ship itself is known for its lack of safety compliance and it has been reported that there are multiple safety deficiencies with the vessel.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said: "Make no mistake that this is a concerted effort by the new owners of several of Australia's oils refineries to systematically remove Australian seafarers from their rightful place of work and replace them with cheap exploited foreign seafarers.
"It is not going to stop with the removal of this vessel from the coast and our community should be ready to make a stand for the comrades on the Tandara Spirit as they are making a stand to protect Australian jobs and the Australian shipping fleet.
"Each and every member on both swings of the Tandara Spirit should be recognised to show that although our members are stuck out in the bay at anchor and isolated, they in fact, are not alone in their struggle."
Vitol - which trades locally as Viva Energy - is a private $300 billion oil trading company that bought Shell's downstream business in Australia for $2.9 billion three months ago.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.
“The Abbott Government is handing the nation’s fuel supply and security to corporate and foreign control.
“As an Australian-crewed and managed vessel, with an outstanding safety record, the Tandara Spirit provides a safe and secure way to transport fuel around Australia and to import fuel from overseas. We need more ships like Tandara Spirit, not less.”
With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petrol and diesel by foreign tankers – up from 60 per cent in 2000.
There are currently 5 MUA–crewed tankers that operate domestically servicing refineries but these jobs may disappear as domestic refineries close. Two of those ships are under immediate and imminent threat of removal from the coast.
There are up to 100 international tankers that import refined products to Australia and that number will rise. Not one Australian seafarer would crew any of that massive number of ships that supply our nations fuel needs.
The move comes just two weeks after it was revealed in the media that terrorist group Al Qaeda has urged jihadists to attack oil tankers in two maritime hotspots that supply Australia with up to 70 per cent of its petrol, raising concern over the nation's near complete reliance on imports.
The National Roads and Motoring Association (NRMA) has said that Australia has small and declining fuel stocks – about three weeks’ worth of refined fuels.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said fuel security raises fundamental questions of national security and sovereign risk for some of Australia’s biggest industries, let alone our food supply and our motorists’ right to expect a constant supply of fuel at a reasonable price.
“Australia is more reliant than ever before on shipping for its fuel security. Yet companies are shifting to use international- flag, international-owned, international- managed and international-crewed ships with demonstrably poorer safety records than Australian-crewed and managed tankers,” Crumlin said.
“Australian companies and the Australian Government do not have the capacity to take control of, and re-direct, these tankers in the event of a fuel emergency.
“The use of the spot-market to charter tankers contributes to the persistently high rates of deficiencies and detentions of tankers by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, as it leads to a very high turnover of tankers used for imports to this country.”
In addition, the Abbott Government wants to unwind Labor’s 2012 changes to the Coastal Trading Act and thereby deregulate the shipping industry and open up the coast to foreign seafarers, who won’t have to apply for visas to work in the industry.
Maritime Crew Visas are also used in the offshore oil and gas industry as a result of changes made by the Abbott Government.
Independent Senator John Madigan has launched a Parliamentary inquiry into the country's fuel security, to which the MUA is putting a submission.