THE MV Estonia ferry disaster in 1994 that claimed the lives of 852 people was not caused by a collision with another vessel or a floating object, according to the preliminary findings of a recent investigation by Estonia, Finland and Sweden.
There is also no evidence to suggest an explosion in the bow area of the vessel, which should not have been certified as seaworthy, the report found.
The investigation was initiated by the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau after video footage was published in September 2020 revealing a hole in the starboard side of the wreck.
The footage was not available during the original inquiry by the Joint Accident Investigation Commission, which issued its report in 1997.
The ship’s seaworthiness, which was called into question by the JAIC, was reassessed by the Swedish and Estonian investigation authorities and the earlier conclusion that the vesssel Estonia was not seaworthy was confirmed.
It noted that an inspection of the bow parts had not been performed.
“The related certificate should not have been issued unless such an inspection had been carried out, which means that MV Estonia was not seaworthy,” the new report said, adding that if such an inspection had been carried out according to regulations, “the flaws of the visor construction could have been discovered, and the accident would probably not have occurred.”
The report, which was published on January 23, also concludes that the location of the bow ramp as the upper extension of the collision bulkhead was based on a practical decision for an exemption from the regulations.
“Such an exemption entails a condition, which must be recorded in certificates but was not,” it said. “Therefore, the vessel Estonia was unseaworthy and the certificate was incorrect.”
If the condition had been noted, the vessel would not have been operating on the Tallinn-Stockholm route.
The vessel Estonia capsized and sank on September 28, 1994, in deteriorating weather on a passage between Estonia and Sweden. Of the 989 people on board, 852 died.
Following the release of video footage by Monster Media Group, an investigation was launched to find the cause of the penetrating deformation of the hull and to assess the validity of the conclusions of the original JAIC report.
Many surveys and studies have been carried out using technologies that were unavailable 25 years ago, and it was revealed that the ship’s hull was in a poor condition.
Nevertheless, it was found that the location of the outcropping bedrock under the hull matches the location of the deformation on the hull.
In February 1995, the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden agreed to protect the wreck site as a final resting place for victims of the disaster.
It was also agreed not to raise the wreck, and to criminalise activities such as diving with the purpose of recovering victims or property from the wreck.