The Maritime Union is holding a protest rally in Newcastle to raise concerns over plans by multi-national BP to sack the Australian crew of a fuel tanker.

The company has advised the crew of the fuel tanker ‘British Loyalty’ that the vessel is finishing up on the Australian coast and has given the workers two months notice.

The union is concerned about any moves to replace Australians with foreign workers.

Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said it leaves Australia’s marine environment exposed to flag-of-convenience ships, with lax safety and environmental standards.

He said it also places Australia’s fuel security at risk.

“We’re closing refineries down, we’re not refining our fuel anymore,” he said.

“So we potentially could be held to ransom by a foreign government – it really is ridiculous.

“This country produces enough oil to produce our own, refine our own petrol.

“We should be doing it here in Australia – transporting it around Australia on Australian ships, crewed by Australian workers.”

The union said the ship will be replaced by a vessel with foreign crew on as little as $2 an hour.

A spokeswoman for BP said the company does not pay anyone on its ships $2 an hour, and the claim is incorrect.

Mr Williams is concerned safety and environmental standards will drop.

“This vessel, for the last seven years, has performed in the top two for environmental and safety performance within the entire global BP fleet, given the highly volatile fuels that they do carry,” he said.

“There have been issues with foreign crews, just recently, where a master on a foreign vessel was arrested in Newcastle going through the Barrier Reef without a pilot.”

The BP spokeswoman said the company has two internationally flagged product tankers – British Loyalty and British Fidelity – working permanently in Australian waters, and are managed by a third party Australian company called ASP Ship Management.

She said British Loyalty has been moving refined petroleum products around the Australian coast from BP’s Bulwer Island refinery in Queensland since 2007.

The spokeswoman said the facility will be closed later this year, and there will be no petroleum produc