An investigation into a fatal explosion on board a bulk carrier moored off Queensland has led to international safety warnings.

A fatal explosion on board a bulk carrier was mistaken for a wave crashing into the ship, an investigation has found.

On March 20, 2013, the 229-metre Liberian-registered Nireas was anchored off Gladstone, Queensland, during its maiden voyage when one of the ship’s engineers began draining water from an air receiver.

An observation window exploded during the process, sending debris flying toward the man, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) reports.

Its investigation was finalised on Tuesday.

“On the bridge, the master, chief mate and third mate heard a loud thump, but thought the noise was a wave slamming against the hull in the rough seas,” the ATSB report says.

The Ukrainian man was found unconscious a short time later but died before a rescue helicopter reached the vessel.

During its investigation, the bureau noted a build-up of condensation in the receptacle as water flow prevented ventilation.

While the report notes the Nireas system had not been properly tested and the drainage pots were not fit for purpose, the ATSB says similar devices continue to be installed in ships around the world.

It has issued safety advisory notices to Nireas’s Chinese builders, Greek operators and international safety agencies.