Workers from the last two Australian-crewed iron ore ships have started arriving home after BHP ended contracts with their employer.

The first crew members from MV Mariloula flew into Brisbane on Friday morning.

A total of 68 from that ship and MV Lowlands Brilliance are expected to return home in the coming weeks.

A Maritime Union of Australia spokesman said it was not known exactly when workers on the second vessel would finish up, but the crews’ employer Teekay Shipping said they would return next month.

It is understood the workers will be replaced with non-Australian employees.

“Earlier this month the crew of both vessels were informed that BHP and BlueScope had decided, without consultation, to immediately axe their last remaining Australian-crewed iron ore vessels,” the Maritime Union of Australia said in a statement on Thursday.

“The decision brought to an end more than 100 years of Australian seafarers carrying iron ore for BHP.”

Teekay Shipping is in talks with workers and their respective unions about their options.

“No decision has been made regarding the continued employment of the crew, and the company is examining whether there are redeployment opportunities,” it said in a statement.

“Should any member of the crew be made redundant they will receive their entitlements under their respective enterprise agreements.”

BHP has been contacted for comment.