New tools will be used to study MS Estonia and create its digital twin

The May-June investigations reached 15 meters from the entrance of the sunken ferry MS Estonia's car deck, but a specialized underwater robot will now be used to reach 45 meters to explore the interior of a large hole in the ship's starboard side.

Rene Arikas, head of the Safety Investigation Bureau, stated at a press conference that more than 40,000 images captured by a submersible photogrammetric survey will be used to create a digital model of the ferry.

The car deck of the wreck is now accessible but only for 15 meters from the entrance. Arikas said the camera captured images of car parts, plastic bags, cables, and ropes. The investigators did not risk advancing any further because of the high risk factors for losing the underwater robot.

"In order to capture the entire car deck both on video and photogrammetrically, it is necessary to use a different technology. The solution is still being developed--it must be a specialized underwater robot capable of capturing a 360-degree image," said Arikas, adding that it should not be ruled out that divers could go in as well.

Arikas said the car deck's accessible area is 45 meters. The investigators are looking out to find fasteners, to identify passenger cars, and to inspect the deck's closed doors. It will also provide access, from the inside to a large hole in the starboard, which has to be measured, said Arikas.

Last week Arikas told ERR the damage to the starboard is way greater than expected, exceeding 40 meters.

"It's a deformation, which means that there are thru-holes, cracks, dents, and places where the exterior plating is inward. We cannot see the full extent of the damage because it extends beneath the hull, but the visible portion spans up to 40 meters," he said.

A digital twin is in making

Arikas said, the next step will be to use the photogrammetric data to create a model of the wreck and the seafloor. This should take about two months and in August or September the model will be shown to the public. Also, the acoustic survey results should be available by then.

The actual creation of MS Estonia's digital twin will begin in the autumn, Arikas added.

The plan to conduct a ferromagnetic study was scrapped after the initial call for proposals failed due to a lack of interest. However, Arikas said, a call for proposals will be issued again in the fall.

"The primary objective is to locate fragments of the Atlantic lock, namely, its locking bolt, and various other metal parts that have detached from the ship," he said

Arikas also said that there are plans to conduct a survey to determine where the detached pieces are, and what they are, in order to determine the route of the MS Estonia's sinking and an approximate time when a piece detached.

In addition, investigators plan to collect metal surface samples from the wreck in order to determine the causes of the damage, as well as bring up three to four windows to assess their resistance to water pressure. Finally, the bow ramp will be brought ashore to examine how and why it became detached from its hinges.

The final report on the investigation into the wreck of MS Estonia is expected next spring.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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