An international team of researchers arrived at the site of the wreck of the MS Estonia in the Baltic Sea overnight into Thursday, where maritime operations commenced immediately. According to Tauri Roosipuu, chief project expert at the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (Ohutusjuurdluse Keskus, OJK), operations are being conducted in round-the-clock shifts.
Speaking to ETV's "Ringvaade" on Wednesday, Roosipuu said that the RSV Viking Reach, carrying the research team, was expected to reach the site of the wreck around midnight, where work would begin right away.
"Operations will commence immediately," he explained. "We'll start right away with preparations and outfitting for conducting operations." This will take some time on site, he noted, adding that initial tasks will begin right at night already.
"Operations are planned so that all tasks will be carried out 24 hours a day with no breaks; the work will be done in shifts and constantly ongoing," the OJK official said, adding that only the weather and other natural conditions may disrupt this work.
The research team plans on taking samples of the bedrock below the seabed and from the damage incurred on the starboard side of the vessel, as well as recover some steel details from on and around the wreck, Roosipuu said.
"After that, we plan on entering the vehicle deck via underwater robot and examine the vehicle deck to the extent possible — what state the cargo situation is in, as well as the state of the doors, hatches, vents — and if possible also examine the starboard damage from the inside," he continued. "The final planned operation is to recover the bow ramp of the MS Estonia, to undergo further examination and analyses on shore."
Roosipuu says that bringing up the vessel's bow ramp may allow for it to be determined why it had detached from the bow. It likewise hasn't previously been possible to examine the bow ramp from all sides; bringing it ashore will make it possible to very closely and precisely examine it.
"As the ramp is crucial evidence in terms of the disaster, it will certainly help make certain things clearer and more certain," he highlighted.
No divers along
The OJK official noted that all underwater operations will be conducted exclusively via underwater robot.
"This time the work has been divided with our Swedish partner institution thus that the Swedes have conducted a corresponding public procurement in which various tasks were provided, but the working method left open, meaning that all bidders could bid, based on their respective equipment and competences, whether to use only robots, only divers or both together," Roosipuu explained.
"The successful tenderer currently conducting these works determined that all of these tasks can be completed exclusively by underwater robots, and we don't have any divers along with us," he continued. "This is a cheaper and in some respects a safer option."
On September 28, 1994, the MS Estonia sank while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm, claiming 852 lives. There were only 137 survivors.
The wreck of the Estonia lies in international waters, but within the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone. The site of the wreck was declared a gravesite by Sweden, Finland and Estonia in 1995.
Editor: Aili Vahtla