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BHP ending contract with last Australian-crewed iron ore ships

BHP Group Ltd. will not renew its contract with the last two Australian-crewed ships that carry iron ore from Port Hedland in Western Australia. It will replace them with foreign crews and vessels, the Maritime Union of Australia said Jan. 15.

The two vessels, MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance, ship iron ore from BHP's Port Hedland operations to BlueScope Steel Ltd.'s steelworks in Port Kembla then move coal to China before returning to Port Hedland.

BHP's contracts with shipping contractor Teekay Shipping Australia expire in June.

The union said nearly 80 Australian seafarers will be replaced by "highly exploited" foreign crews paid as low as A$2 per hour. It added that BlueScope did not consult the union about the termination.

A BHP spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald in a same-day report that BHP is no longer contracting for crewing services, adding that the freight arrangements were maintained as part of the demerger of BHP Steel, now BlueScope, in 2002.

A BlueScope spokesperson told the newspaper it is exploring options for its future iron ore supply arrangements.

The union said it is requesting a meeting with the two companies to discuss the issue.