Expert on Estonia ferry wreck: We did not seen signs of extraneous activity
Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau manager Rene Arikas said he does not consider it likely that there will be any new discoveries made in the new expedition to the wreck site of MS Estonia. He added that the reasoning behind Margus Kurm's expedition is difficult to understand.
Arikas told ERR's webcast "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday that while there is a theoretical chance that a new discovery about MS Estonia's sinking will be made, but the likelihood of it is very low.
He added that there have been many technological advancements over the last decades and that helps provide a clearer overview of the ferry's sinking. "In the investigations we conducted with different equipment during the summer, we did not see any signs of explosion or extraneous activity," Arikas commented on possible causes for MS Estonia's sinking.
The new expedition funded by the families of the victims of the Estonia ferry disaster started an expedition to the wreck site last weekend and have now reached the sinking site. The expedition is led by former state prosecutor head of the government's investigative committee looking into the sinking of ferry MS Estonia in 2005-2009 Margus Kurm.
Arikas said he has no assessment of the expedition to give because he has no overview of what the goal is. He added that it is incomprehensible to him why the investigation is done privately, when Estonia and Sweden have decided to invest €6 million in research and national studies are still ongoing.
Arikas also said he does not understand if the expedition will conduct actual research or is just a media project.
When national investigation bureaus set out in the summer to conduct research at the sinking site, they first asked for Finland's feedback to what was in the plans. "They asked us to present an application, which the state processed and gave us a permission to conduct scientific research," Arikas explained and added that Kurm's expedition should have gone through a similar process, but he has no idea if it actually happened.
Safety Investigation Bureau left a sensor at the site
Arikas said that researchers left a sensor at the wreck site in the summer, which will measure the speed and direction of currents.
He added that the research team was lucky and the current was rather unnoticeable and it did not affect their work, but he does consider it important that it will provide clarity on whether or not it is even possible to conduct research.
In addition, the bureau plans to install a sensor, which will forward data about water transparency, which is an important factor in planning out any coming studies.
Arikas said the bureau is set to map out metal objects in the vicinity of MS Estonia's wreck. "That would give us a more specific answer about when metals separated from the hull and would then give us an answer about where details from the so-called Atlantic lock, which was raised but dropped back in the sea for some reason," the expert said.
In spring, the main part of the research project will take place with the intention of developing a digital object of the Estonia's wreck. The plan is to create simulations in order to understand how the ship might have sunk.
Arikas hopes it will be possible to read the final research report next year, but interim reports will also be published. He promised that all materials - both video and photo, different analyses and studies - will be made public and will be published.
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 ever, so far as European vessels go, after the Titanic.
The wreck lies in over 100 meters of water, south of Finland's Turku archipelago and in international waters.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste