Three decades after the sinking of the ferry Estonia on September 28th 1994, authorities from Estonia and Sweden have started new investigations on the wreck.
he sinking of the ferry vessel MS Estonia in the Baltic Sea marks the second-deadliest peacetime sinking of a European ship, after the Titanic, as well as the deadliest peacetime shipwreck to have taken place in European waters. At the time of the incident, the ship was carrying 989 people, of whom 852 lost their lives.
Now, the Electra af Askö and the Eva 316 have arrived at the sinking site during the night of July 9th to carry out a preliminary study which will last until July 18th.
The wreck and the sea floor will be examined with echo sounders and sonar devices. Moreover, an underwater robot with a camera will also be used. The data will be visualized later, over a period of months.
More extensive investigations are planned for next spring.
According to the official investigation report from 1997 a torn-off bow visor was the cause of the sinking. However, the official interpretation has long been a matter of controversy and disagreement, with survivors and bereaved relatives long demanding for investigations to be restarted.
Many of the dead could not be recovered, which means that the wreck is under protection as a sea grave and may not be visited. After the revelations, Sweden introduced legal changes so that authorities can examine the finds more closely. These changes came into effect at the beginning of July.
The joint Estonian/Finnish/Swedish Accident Investigation Commission, launched an investigation into the report, focusing on the fact that the visor attachments were not designed according to realistic design assumptions.
- The visor attachments were not designed according to realistic design assumptions, including the design load level, load distribution to the attachments and the failure mode. The attachments were constructed with less strength than the simplistic calculations required. It is believed that this discrepancy was due to lack of sufficiently detailed manufacturing and installation instructions for certain parts of the devices.
- The bow visor locking devices should have been several times stronger to have a reasonable level of safety for the regular traffic between Tallinn and Stockholm.
- The ESTONIA capsized due to large amounts of water entering the car deck, loss of stability and subsequent flooding of the accommodation decks.
- The full-width open car deck contributed to the rapid increase in the list. The turn to port – exposing first the open bow and later the listed side to the waves – shortened the time until the first windows and doors broke, which led to progressive flooding and sinking.
- The design arrangement of bow ramp engaging with visor through the box-like housing had crucial consequences for the development of the accident.
- Non-compliance with the SOLAS regulations regarding the upper extension of the collision bulkhead, accepted originally by the national administration, may have contributed to the vessel’s capsizing.