Safety authorities: M/S Estonia ferry sinking needs further investigation

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Memorial service at the 'Broken Line' monument in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Estonian, Swedish and Finnish safety investigation authorities have signed a memorandum of understanding which will allow additional investigations into the causes of the sinking of the M/S Estonia ferry, which sunk in 1994 killing 852.

Judicial co-operation between the three countries is necessary, as in February 1995 Estonia, Finland and Sweden agreed to protect the site of the sunken ferry from any further activities. Several other countries also ratified the international agreement. Changes in national legislation will be made in accordance with international law.

Head of the Safety Investigation Center Jens Haug said at a press conference he had appealed to the government not to make the sanctity of the grave agreement an obstacle to the necessary underwater research.

He said there are nine options for future surveys which include using sonar, a survey of the seabed and the ship's surrounding and plot surveys.

The Estonian Safety Investigation Center is the leading country in the investigation because the ferry sailed under an Estonian flag.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) told ERR he welcomed the decision. "I think that due to the documentary we saw this autumn, the Estonia needs further investigation and additional research," he said and called for there to be transparency in the process. He also said the government is willing to support the plans, with funding, for example.

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

The shipwreck was investigated by a joint commission 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. A report published in 1997 said the cause of the sinking was the breaking of the ship's bow visor. 

A documentary broadcast by the Discovery channel earlier this year received a lot of attention and raised many questions after it revealed a previously unknown four-meter long hole had been torn in the side of the vessel.

Screenshot from the recent documentary, showing the hole in the MS Estonia's starboard side. Source: ERR

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Editor: Helen Wright

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