A group of unemployed Australian seafarers will protest against the return to Melbourne this morning of the CSL shipping company’s vessel Stadacona, which has sacked its Australian crew and replaced them with cheap foreign labour.

The Stadacona, formerly named the CSL Yarra, was at the centre of a dispute with maritime unions in May when the ship’s Australian registration was transferred to the Bahamas and its Australian crew was replaced by Ukrainian seafarers.

Evidence to the Federal Court in April stated that the Ukrainian seafarers’ wages were $19,600 a year compared to $52,100 a year for Australians.

The Stadacona is carrying cement materials for Queensland Cement Limited (QCL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss-based multinational Holcim Ltd. Protesters are expected to greet the ship after it docks at Melbourne’s Fisherman’s Bend wharf.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said unions wanted Australian companies to stand up for Australian jobs by supporting shipping companies that employ Australian seafarers and comply with Australian wage, tax, safety, environment and immigration laws.

“QCL says it is committed to being a good neighbour and caring about the communities in which it operates, but it is using a flag-of-convenience ship that has replaced Australian seafarers with a foreign crew on lower wages.”

Ms Burrow said Australia’s merchant shipping industry was being wiped out by the Federal Government’s policy of allowing more flag-of-convenience ships like the Stadacona onto domestic trading routes.

“Countries like Britain and the US act to limit the use of flag-of-convenience ships, but the Howard Government is issuing more and more permits for these vessels to work in Australia with low-wage foreign labour,” Ms Burrow said.

“Federal Transport Minister John Anderson could solve the problem by refusing to issue voyage permits to flag-of-convenience ships like the Stadacona, which do not have to pay Australian wages or taxes while working in Australia,” Ms Burrow said.