Relatives of the victims of the 1994 MS Estonia disaster met Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop Friday, in a first-of-a-kind gathering which presented the government's stance on possible new investigations into the sinking.
The Secretary of State informed the relatives, as well as survivors and representatives of both, what steps the government might take following a recent Swedish documentary which claimed a hole in the side of the ferry's hull, visible in the wreckage, caused the ferry to sink, with the loss of 852 lives, as opposed the officially-sanctioned explanation of a sheared-off bow visor.
Peterkop also listened to the relatives' and survivors' proposals on how communication could be handled in future.
"The government considers it extremely important in its decisions for the investigation of previously undocumented damage to the hull of the Estonia to be independent, transparent and trustworthy," Peterkop said of the meeting, which took place at the Stenbock House, seat of the government.
"It is only natural that we wish to keep the organizations of relatives in Estonia informed about the preparations and hear their proposals," he added.
Communication with the relatives and representatives of the victims is an important part in us coming to the investigation of the additional circumstances in a transparent and trustworthy manner."
Representatives of Memento Mare, an organization which represents relatives of those who perished, the Estonian Seamen's Independent Trade Union (EMSA), and representatives of some of the 137 survivors were also in attendance.
The government decided at the beginning of October to continue preparing for a further investigation in conjunction with Finland and Sweden, the other two countries hardest hit by the sinking, and instructed its office to set up Friday's meeting.
The MS Estonia sank in the small hours of September 28, 1994, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries, and second-largest peacetime maritime disaster, so far as European vessels go, after the Titanic.
The shipwreck, which lies in about 100 meters of water south of the Turku archipelago, 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.
Editor: Andrew Whyte