Ratas: Estonia ferry wreck needs a new investigation

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that in connection with new information revealed about the Estonia ferry disaster, an underwater investigation must be carried out.

The authors of a new documentary about the Estonia ferry disaster, which sank 26 years ago while sailing between Stockholm and Tallinn, claim to have found a large hole in the hull.

The four-meter-high hole was partially hidden on the seabed, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported. According to the filmmakers, their findings support the theory that a hole in the hull of the ship contributed to the rapid sinking of the ship, not just the rupture of the bow visor. So far, the hole theory has been rejected by officials.

Ratas said this is significant new information which has not been discussed before and a clear answer must be given. "This must, of course, be done with dignity and transparency," Ratas said.

"A new technical investigation into the new circumstances of the Estonia must be carried out. In our view, the technical investigation should include underwater observations, and we have also informed Finland and Sweden," said Ratas.

According to Ratas, the technical investigation should include a seabed survey and survey of the wreck among other things. Estonia would lead the research process as the ship's flag state.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the new investigation would not mean that the results of the 1997 international investigation would become obsolete.

"We will make further decisions based on the conclusions of technical investigations," said Reinsalu.

Ratas said that the underwater operations would be carried out while respecting the sanctity of grave agreement.

Reinsalu said it is possible to follow the rules in a way which allows for the truth to be found out during the investigation and answer the questions which have arisen.

Neither Ratas nor Reinsalu have seen the documentary and it is not known how much a new investigation would.

The 'Broken Line' monument in Tallinn. Source: Jan Pohunek/Creative Commons

The ferry Estonia sank on the night of September 28, 1994, sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking of Estonia is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries.

The shipwreck was investigated by a joint committee formed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden between 1994 and 1997 and by a government commission headed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in 2005-2009. 

In 1995, Estonia, Finland and Sweden signed an agreement to protect the shipwreck, which prohibits diving to the wreck.

The disaster is commemorated by the "Broken Line" monument in Tallinn.

Estonia, Finland, Sweden to jointly assess new information

Reinsalu, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde have agreed that in case of new significant information on the catastrophe of the M/S Estonia that has not been reported before, the three countries will jointly assess the new information.

A Discovery Network documentary about the M/S Estonia disaster in 1994 includes new underwater video images from the wreck site showing damage on the starboard side of the wreck.

A joint statement by ministers said: "Estonia, Finland and Sweden have agreed that verification of the new information presented in the documentary will be made in accordance and full respect of the agreement between the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden regarding the M/S Estonia signed in 1995. The fundamental idea with this agreement is to protect the M/S Estonia, as a final place of rest for victims of the disaster, from any disturbing activities. Our countries will cooperate closely in this matter and Estonia as flag state will lead this process."

Estonia, Finland and Sweden emphasize that they rely on the final conclusions of JAIC (Joint Accident Investigation Commission) final report of 1997.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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