Casualties – New probe into ferry ESTONIA sinking reveals construction flaws – Jan 2023

A new investigation into the sinking of ferry ESTONIA that claimed 852 souls in 1994 revealed flaws in her bow visor construction missed during her certification, officials said on Monday 23rd January 2023.

Built at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, West Germany as yard number 590 she was launched on 26th April,1980 and in service on 5th July , 1980 as VIKING SALLY  for the Finnish company Rederi Ab Sally wearing Viking Line livery as per below image –

After 10 years she changed name as SILJA STAR trading for only 1 year where she was renamed as the WASA KING trading for the Finnish company Wasa Line. In January 1993 she was sold for use on Estline’s Tallinn–Stockholm traffic and renamed ESTONIA.

Shortly after midnight of Wednesday 28th September 1994 she sank in rough weather while she was crossing the Baltic Sea en route from Tallinn, Estonia bound to Stockholm, Sweden. Of the 989 on board, 137 were rescued and the sinking was one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century. It is one of the deadliest peacetime sinkings of a European ship, after the RMS TITANIC  (1912) and the RMS EMPRESS OF IRELAND (1914), and the deadliest peacetime shipwreck to have occurred in European waters, with 852 lives lost.

If necessary examination was carried out, the Estonia (EST) homeported ferry would not be approved as seaworthy to serve the Tallinn-Stockholm route , investigators from Estonia, Finland and Sweden told a news conference in Tallinn.

In 1997, an official investigation into Europe’s worst peacetime maritime disaster since World War Two concluded that the roll-on, roll-off ferry sank on a stormy Baltic Sea after a bow shield failed, damaging a bow ramp and causing the car deck to flood.

However a Discovery Network documentary aired in 2020 showed underwater images of holes in the Estonia’s hull, prompting Sweden, Estonia and Finland to launch a new survey of the wreck lying in shallow Finnish territorial waters.

“If the inspection, following regulations, had been carried out, the flaws of the visor construction could have been discovered and the accident would probably not have occurred”, the presentation of the new probe’s findings said. The holes discovered in the hull were likely caused by the impact on the vessel on the sea bottom, said Rene Arikas, Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau director, rather than have caused the sinking. “We do know that when she sank, she didn’t have bow visor, she didn’t have the ramp. But so far we have not found any damages (to the hull before sinking) other than that in the bow area”, said Risto Haimila, chief marine safety investigator at the Finnish Safety Investigation Authority.

Before the final results of the probe are announced, the investigators will raise Estonia’s bow ramp to examine the damage, take samples from the hull area, survey the inside of the ship, and conduct interviews with the survivors, he added.

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Published – Saturday 28th January, 2023.