Safety authority: Saaremaa ferry incident the result of technical issue

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The Tõll ferry after Wednesday's incident. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Wednesday's minor collision involving the Saaremaa ferry was caused by a technical malfunction which made the vessel unmanageable. Authorities had earlier said they will not be opening an official investigation the incident, which saw minor damage to vessel and shore facilities, though may do so if the situation requires it.

The Estonian president was on board the vessel when the incident took place.

The ferry, called the Tõll, operated by TS Laevad, made contact with a berth in the harbor of Kuivastu, Muhu, on arriving on its scheduled trip from Virtsu, on the mainland, at around 2.40 p.m. Wednesday.

According to unconfirmed reports, the crew on the bridge of the Tõll found shortly before mooring that the vessel had become unmanageable, and that her speed could not be reduced by conventional means of control.

The cause was reportedly most likely a technical failure, rather than human error or some other factor, though the causes are as yet unknown, BNS reports.

Rene Arikas, head of the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (OJK), told BNS on Thursday morning that: "Our initial view is that nothing has happened that would require a change in regulations and processes, and that is why we are not opening proceedings at this time."

"The recordings show that the vessel approached the berth at high speed, but the reason for this still needs to be clarified," Arikas went on, adding that if further information provides any basis for requiring a procedure from his bureau, one would certainly be forthcoming.

The vessel's speed of four knots was sufficient to knock a harbor vehicle ramp out of alignment, and damage at least one vehicle on board – belonging to President Kersti Kaljulaid, a passenger, who had been making an unofficial trip to Saaremaa, linked to Muhu via a causeway road.

Security footage revealed a collision described as "very strong," though no apparent serious damage was inflicted on the vessel's hull, while ferry timetable site Praamid.ee referred to it as a technical issue on its social media account, BNS reports.

Rene Arikas added that there were no injuries to passengers or crew, nor was the vessel's buoyancy compromised in any way – the damage was mainly to the Toll's bow ramp, as well as the harbor ramp damage.

The Transport Agency (Transpordiamet) are now handling the investigation, Arikas said, and have already been on site since Wednesday.

Rene Arikas headed the Estonian contingent involved in a joint investigation with Swedish authorities earlier this month into the wreck of the MS Estonia ferry, which sank in 1994.

Laid down in 2015, the Tõll has three sister ships, the Leiger , the Piret and the Tiiu, plying their trade also between the mainland and the islands. TS Laevad is a subsidiary of the part-state-owned Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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