Death at Sea

Published: 9 Apr 2009

Trevor Moore, 43, IR, was killed tragically on board the Karratha Spirit on Christmas Eve.

He was the second seafarer to die in a matter of weeks in work-related incidents aboard Australian-crewed vessels. These were the first mortalities in Australian seagoing job accidents in 14 years.

Trevor recently helped lead the battle on board the Seakap in Newcastle to ensure US based Koppers would eventually replace the vessel with another Australian-crewed ship on the coast (see “On Course” MWJ, Summer 09).

The father of two died of massive head injuries on board his vessel 60 nautical miles off Karratha when struck by a mooring line during the operation to disconnect from the riser. At the time the vessel was being evacuated due to an approaching cyclone.

There was 3 metre swell. Very little wind. Still,” IR Neil Saunders recalls. The skies were overcast and you could see the cloud build up, but it was a fair way off.

I wasn’t far from Trev, just behind him with another fellow on another winch port side, when it happened. He was there one minute, next minute he was gone. Just happened in a split second. It’s all very distressing. You’ve got a workmate there beside you one minute and he’s dead the next.

Relieving Chief IR Vince Brauer was standing well back observing the operation.

I saw a mooring line take off at the speed of light, whipping around in the air,” Vin said. “Someone yelled out ‘he’s down, he’s down.’ And I ran over. That’s when I found Trev on the deck in a massive pool of blood.

Deep down I feared the worst for Trev. But I wasn’t going to tell my lads that. I’m not a doctor and we had to do everything we could for him.”

On being notified of the fatality Sydney Assistant Branch Secretary Paul Garrett visited the vessel to report back to the union and ensure crew were provided counselling.

At the time the FSO Karratha Spirit was being disconnected from the CALM Buoy mooring system on the Legender field to be evacuated from Cyclone Billy. The master was giving Trev instructions. The vessel was drifting astern putting pressure on the mooring rope when he was told to cut a sacrificial line attached to the mooring line. The mooring line recoiled off the drum, striking Trevor in the head and throwing him to the deck.

Trev was put into the coma position, bleeding badly. Chief IR Vince Brauer requested the Master call an emergency muster and request a medivac.

Trev was put on a stretcher and moved to the ship’s hospital. There was no pulse. The 2nd Mate applied the defibrillator and commenced CPR.

The machine recorded 111 minutes and 20 seconds. That’s how long we worked on him for until they got a doctor in Brisbane on the phone to tell us to stop,” said Vin. “It was extremely hard to get any pulse or anything because of the injuries. But the machine picked up a slight pulse earlier on.”

All attempts to revive Trevor failed. He died of massive head injuries and bleeding from his head, mouth and nose.

Vin said all those involved in attempting to save Trev did their absolute best. “We did absolutely everything we could do.”
The crew placed his body into a body bag awaiting the helicopter. It did not arrive until late the following afternoon, Christmas Day.

System failure

Vin pulls no punches. “The Medivac procedure failed completely,” he said. “The vessels safety case says there’s a helicopter available 24 hours, 7 days a week for emergency evacuation and rescue. But it did not happen. This is why I’m so angry. We would have been better off being some French yachtsman hundreds of miles in the Southern Ocean. We were just 100 kilometres off the coast and nobody came to help us. No one got Trev. The system in place protects some French yachtsman more than it protects Australian merchant seafarers.”

Paul Garrett said crew were extremely concerned that no medivac helicopter was scrambled to assist. Had Trevor survived the initial impact, no help would have come in time. A vessel was sent out to meet with the ship but would have been of little help due to the time it would have taken to get the injured member ashore. MUA crew questioned why no helicopters were made available and what helicopters are actually on standby in the Pilbara region.

To make matters worse there were problems getting a counsellor aboard, due to the weather.

What got us through this was our unity,” said Vin. “Our comradeship. I called meetings and told the guys that if we all stick together we’ll get through this. And we all stuck by each other. If someone broke down we all took care of each other and that’s what got us through - our unity.”

The crew are doing it quite tough,” said Paul Garrett. “When we had a meeting the night of Boxing Day, the members had not had a real chance since Trevor’s death to sit down, talk, grieve and gather their collective thoughts on the tragedy.”

It’s distressing,” said Neil. “The more you think about it, the more it hits home. You think ‘It could have been me. What could I have done? How could things have been done differently? What went wrong?”

But it makes you appreciate things a lot more,” he said. “Things you got. Things you doing. It makes you more aware of what can happen. You hear a lot of stories. But once you’ve seen it makes you more cautious. It brings it home to you.”

Southern NSW Branch Secretary Gary Keane has been working with the Sydney and West Australian Branches and the National Secretary and National Officers to provide assistance and support for the crew involved and Trevor's family since the accident.

Paul Garrett commended the way that Teekay management responded to the tragedy and made services available through the night in their Sydney and Perth offices and ensured that the MUA was briefed.

Manager Noel Lacey was on the ship at short notice on Christmas Day. Management also went out of their way to facilitate flights and helicopter transfer to get union representation both on and off the ship at short notice.

They recognised the positive role it played with the crew in having an MUA official on board,” said Paul.
Speaking at the union’s monthly meetings, MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin expressed the union’s great sadness and anguish at the death of a seafarer. He highlighted the dangers in the offshore industry and failings in the regulatory system, pledging to prevent further fatalities:

I know I share with the company and the industry the determination to make Trevor’s tragic death the last we see aboard an Australian vessel,” he wrote on the day of the funeral. “I am meeting with the Federal Minister of Transport Anthony Albanese today over this and other matters pertaining to the industry and on the phone this morning he also asked me to pass on to the family and others gathered his personal condolences and sympathies as well as on behalf of the Rudd Government.”

Castoro Otto

The Karratha fatality came only weeks after 300 workers on board the Castoro Otto were also put at risk during Cyclone Billy, when the vessel was not evacuated.
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has written to the relevant ministers calling for independent inquiries into the role of the regulators in both incidents.

In the union submission to the Offshore Petroleum Regulatory Inquiry into Trevor’s death the MUA raised its concern that the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 (OPA) was flawed because it failed to recognise facilities as vessels under the Act.

This means its operations are split between two safety authorities – National Offshore Petroleum Safety, NOPSA and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, AMSA. It was at the height of a cyclone emergency in both the Karratha Spirit and Castoro Otto incidents that NOPSA jurisdiction ceased and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Seacare jurisdictions commenced.

The confusion (and potential for inappropriate decision making) arises because it is during emergency situations that vessels cease being facilities and revert to being vessels, under the jurisdiction of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority,” the union submission to the coronial inquiry points out.

The union argues this places undue power and decision making for safety management in the hands of the operator at the expense of both the workforce and the regulator.

A major concern the MUA has with the current safety arrangements in the offshore oil and gas industry is that because the Navigation Act does not apply to ships, which are defined as “facilities”, the maritime workforce is denied the protection and standards of various International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions, which Australia has ratified.

Article 2 of MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships) defines a "ship" to mean a vessel of any type whatsoever operating in the marine environment and includes hydrofoil boats, air cushion vehicles, and submersibles, floating craft and fixed or floating platforms.

What’s more the union points out that NOPSA was established with a very strong bias of industry input, therefore adopting the deregulated safety case model.

We believe the tried and tested occupational health and safety model used in all other OHS schemes (i.e. in both the Comcare and

Seacare models at national level,) is the better option,” said Paddy Crumlin. “It is entirely unsatisfactory in our view, that each operator can develop a safety case with widely varying standards of performance. In our view, Australia is in breach of its IMO Treaty obligations.”

The union submission calls for a high level joint union-industry working group consistent with wider Government OHS harmonisation efforts to review all Australian NOHSC/ASCC standards as well as international safety and OHS standards.
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin also wrote to the ministers at the time of the fatality raising the union concerns.

Trev was a good seafarer,” said Vin. “Competent. Reliable. Easy to get along with. A good worker. A good family man. Close to his kids. And he was a good unionist. It’s a big loss.”

We owe it to Trev and his family that there must be something positive come out of this, some fool proof system to ensure if there is ever a tragedy or accident there is a central number to call - an Australia wide alert.”

The other advice I can give people is always ensure the procedures are followed. Don’t be afraid in coming forward. You’ve got a right to be heard.”

Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, which also covers workers in the offshore industry, wrote to the union to say AWU members “grieve with your members after learning of the two recent workplace-related deaths on Australian-crewed vessels”.

Like the MUA leadership, the AWU believes we do need to ensure that union concerns about the current safety regime, procedures and jurisdictions are clearly understood by the relevant minister, reviewed and reformed as urgently as possible.”

The AWU and the MUA have formed an alliance to work together in the offshore industry to make the job safer and give workers the protection of union coverage.

Trevor Moore’s death follows that of New Zealand seafarer Richard Maras who died after an accident on board the Spirit of Esperance in Townsville last November.

Workmates discovered their crewmate injured and unconscious on a walkway after he failed to reply to a radio check.
First aid was administered on the spot and an ambulance rushed him to Townsville hospital where he later died.
(see also Vale Comrade)