Gallery: Crew prepares to recover bow from MS Estonia wreck Monday

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On Monday morning, the international research team at the site of the wreck of the MS Estonia in the Baltic Sea was putting the finishing touches on preparations for the final stage of their expedition — to recover the wreck's bow ramp from the seafloor. Originally slated to be brought up around midday Monday, the recovery of the bow was nonetheless postponed.

Final preparations for this stage began Sunday already, and continued round the clock through Monday morning. Initial plans called for the bow ramp to be recovered around noon on Monday, however the cleaning of the bow on the seafloor took longer than expected.

The crew of the research vessel has not yet indicated a new set date and time for the attempt.

Dredging around the detached bow ramp has taken time, as it had partially sunken into the sediment on the seafloor.

Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (Ohutusjuurdluse Keskus, OJK) director Märt Ots told ERR that two holes were drilled into the top edge of the ramp on Sunday night.

"We managed to recover metal cutting samples that can be used to conduct metal tests," Ots said. "Right now they're waiting for visibility to improve at the sea floor. Then they can begin recovering the ramp."

The director explained that the ramp will first be moved away from the wreck itself to avoid damaging the latter, after which they can start bringing it up to the surface.

"The ramp is expected to be brought up around noon today," he added.

OJK chief project expert Tauri Roosipuu said that the research crew completed its video survey of the vessel's vehicle deck on Sunday night. During the final dive, they moved along the port-side inner wall of the vehicle deck until reaching the stern, and the team was able to observe the port-side stern ramp from the inside as well.

"The distance between the bow ramp and the stern ramp is just over 140 meters — in other words, that's how deep the underwater robot entered the wreck," Roosipuu said. "Nobody expected to reach the [other] end of the vehicle deck; this exceeded our goal several times over, and we managed it thanks to the masterful efforts of the underwater robot's pilot."

According to the chief project expert, visibility was very good in the observed part of the car deck, considering the circumstances. "On the port side you could mainly see trailers and trucks," he described. "We also saw several tie-downs."

Preparations then began for the raising of the bow ramp. Based on its construction drawings, the mass of the ramp is approximately 12.5 tons. It is approximately 8.2 meters long, with outspread flaps tacking on another 1.5 meters of length, and 5.8-6.2 meters wide.

"Once the ramp has been recovered, we can investigate why the ramp had detached from the hull of the ship and thoroughly examine previous damage sustained in the course of the disaster as well," Roosipuu said.

The RSV Viking Reach, the Norwegian-flagged research vessel carrying the international research team, departed the Port of Karlskrona, Sweden last Tuesday, reaching the site of the wreck of the MS Estonia overnight into Thursday.

The expedition's maritime operations are being conducted by the OJK and the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) in cooperation with Finnish authorities. Norway's Reach Subsea AS is the contractual partner for the expedition's maritime operations, with the RSV Viking Reach conducting research.

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.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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