COULD you spend three days working on a ship while one of your mates was dead inside a freezer? The crew of 22 on board a ship anchored in Gladstone Harbour had to do just that.
Bulk carrier Kanaris was heading south from Huanghua in China to Gladstone when a 31-year-old Filipino man, known to his crewmates as Richie, died after a gantry crashed into his head after a rope broke.
The first officer tried to resuscitate Richie as he went in and out of consciousness but with only basic first aid training the crew said they felt helpless.
The crew was at Mission to Seafarers Gladstone yesterday. One of the men told the Observer that the whole crew was gathered around Richie for about seven hours until he eventually died.
Chaplain Russell Cunningham explains what he understands happened on board Kanaris
"On board a ship we're like family and this was very sad," the man, in his 40s, said.
"The crew couldn't sleep and some guys were suffering with trauma."
The man said the first officer handed in his resignation straight after Richie died.
"He was the one who tried to revive him and he couldn't," he said. "He could no longer stay on the ship because he couldn't stop thinking of the unlucky guy."
At the time the ship was about 260 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea on February 4.
Mission to Seafarers chaplain Russell Cunningham said he understood the men had then washed the body, placed it in a body bag and put it in the freezer along with their food.
Richie's body was handed over to police in Papua New Guinea inside a makeshift coffin made from pallets.
"Within hours they were expected to go back to work and operate in these conditions," Mr Cunningham said.
"They were suffering with trauma and many still are."
Another crew member told the Observer they were being made to work long hours with not enough rest.
"(The bosses) wanted us to finish this job and get to Gladstone on time because we were coming to Australia," he said.
"They were trying to hurry us so we didn't get enough rest.
"That's why we think the accident happened, because we were too tired and people make mistakes when they are tired."
The ship, which arrived in Gladstone on Thursday, was tied up to the RG Tanna wharf until late last night when it was expected to sail further out into the harbour.
That was happening without the ship's captain, however, who is believed to have been stood down by the owners of the Greek ship, VH Safety Management Overseas.
A new captain is believed to be already on the way from Greece.
Working conditions on board the Kanaris were flagged by an inspector for the International Trade Workers' Federation.
A spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said wages were not being paid properly, time sheets were incorrectly filled out and there was a failure in the on board complaint procedure system.
Because of this, the ship is unable to leave Gladstone until the issues are fixed or, at least, a plan to fix them is made obvious.
Chaplain Russell Cunningham explains the trauma on board Kanaris
Crew members said they had been receiving their wages but not overtime and the timesheets would say they were resting when they were actually working.
The next stop for the Kanaris is Mexico, 34 days sail away.
The Observer made several phone calls to the Greek company yesterday, but we were unable to get a comment before deadline.
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