Lies and Truths about the M/V Estonia Accident
Chapter 4


About us


Contact info


Order books


Read also the book Disasterinvestigation


Chapter 4. The Final Report

4.1 The Final Report

The Final Report (13) was published on December 3, 1997. It does not mention any other cause of accident than water on the car deck in the superstructure. It does not describe how water on the car deck in the superstructure could have sunk the vessel, i.e. how water on the car deck replaced 18 000 m3 air in the hull below the car deck. The following is a short review of the Final report considering what has been reported in previous chapters of this book. The interested reader should have a copy of (13) available for easy reference (you find it on the internet). When reference is made to the Final Report it is preceded by letters FR.

4.2 The Accident according to the JAIC

The description of the accident in Chapter 1 on page 22 of the Final Report is completely different from what is described in this book 2.2.

Everything was normal according to the Commission until Linde on the car deck

'shortly before 01.00 heard a metallic bang from the bow area when the vessel hit a heavy wave.'

The text in italic is quoted from the Final Report. The ramp was in place, there was no leaking, the garage in the superstructure was dry, which Linde reported to the bridge. Linde then returned to the bridge, where he met the Master. Then nothing happened, except that Linde was sent down again to check noises on the car deck 1.22. How the Commission knows that it was a heavy wave that hit the 'Estonia', we do not know.

'At about 01.15 the visor separated from the bow and tilted over the stern. The ramp was pulled fully open, allowing large amounts of water to enter the car deck'.

Nobody saw the ramp fully open, 4.7 and 4.23. This means that three visor locks, two visor hinges, two visor lifting pistons had been ripped off, that the lifting pistons had eaten through the bulkheads at fr. 159 and that two ramp hooks and four ramp lock pins/bolts had been ripped apart during circa 15 minutes between 01.00 and 01.15 hrs, and that no particular noises had been heard on the bridge, even if noise was allegedly heard elsewhere on the ship, when the flipping visor had pounded against the fore peak deck. The Final Report does not say that the JAIC had previously reported that the ramp was partly open, more open and later closed, 1.11 and 1.15.

'Very rapidly the ship took on a heavy starboard list.'

The report does not mention that most survivors said that the vessel listed suddenly to 50° starboard, when many persons were hurt, and then came back to upright and then found an equilibrium at 15° list and that this took place at 01.02 hrs 3.16.

'Passengers started to rush up the staircases and panic developed in many places'.

The report does not say that many passengers left deck no. 1 before the listing occurred and reported that there was water on deck no. 1 1.22 both to the reception (which advised the bridge) and to the crew.

'The list to starboard increased and water had started to enter the accommodation decks.'

The report does not define the accommodation decks, which are decks nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6 for passengers and nos. 7 and 8 for crew. Evidently no water on the car deck in the superstructure could ever enter accommodation deck no. 1 below inside the hull, when the list increased. Evidently a lot of water entered accommodation decks nos. 4, 5 and 6 in the deck house, when the ship listed >30° and windows were broken, and at 34° list the ship should have turned upside down, 2.16 and 5.5. The report does not mention this.

'During the final stage of flooding the list was more than 90 degrees. The ship sank rapidly, stern first......'

You wonder what the final stage of flooding means. Nowhere in the JAIC scenario is it explained how the 'Estonia' flooded the 18000 m3 of 14 watertight compartments in the hull below the car deck (engine room, accommodation on deck no. 1, sauna, tanks, etc.), so she could sink.

The JAIC description of the accident is an amazing distortion of the testimonies of most survivors. Chapter 1 of the Final Report shows clearly that the Commission is only promoting its cause of accident, which was established a few days after the accident 1.4.

4.3 Ownership and operating History

There is nothing special to report about the ship's 15 years past history in the Final Report. It was a good ship. But the Commission does not explain why the deadweight is reported to be 3 006 tons on page 28 of the Final report, while it was reported to be 3 345 tons 1.1 in Lloyd's Register's ship data book. It is probable that 339 tons weight has been added to the ship in operation, which naturally affects stability, even if stability should not have been a problem for the 'Estonia'. The Final Report does not mention that the ship was 339 tonnes heavier than built (which you in fact would expect after 14 years' service).

4.4 The Vessel and its Stability

The JAIC has no particular comments on the vessel itself in Chapter 4 of the Final Report. Evidently the vessel was lost, so only inspections of records are reported and the records were in order. Normally an accident investigation cannot rely on inspection of records only to assess the condition of the ship before the accident - many items are only inspected every 5 years and no guarantee at all, that there is no wear and tear.

The Germans (11) have done a more complete inspection of the ship based on the u/w videos and interviews of former crew members, etc. and found that many parts of the ship were worn, torn, missing or damaged, 1.21, 3.14 and 3.15.

It is stated in the Final Report that in normal sailing condition the vessel had a transverse metacentric height (GoM) of about 1.2 m in combination with a slight trim by the stern and a draft of about 5.5 m. As seen in 2.16 and 5.5 the writer has estimated the required GoM to 2.1 m, i.e. 75% bigger (and a similar figure was given to him by the Germans (Note May 2000 by writer - correct GoM was probably 1.2 meter - it doesn't matter for the general discussion here and elsewhere in this book - the conclusions are the same and valid), and all stability calculations were based on the bigger GoM. In spite of this the JAIC obtains similar results of how much water on the car deck is required to heel the vessel, 2.16, 4.6, 4.18 and 5.5. One reason is the assumed permeability of the garage and different ways how to calculate the heeling moments.

4.5 Operations on Board

Operations aboard were organised as in most ships, i.e. along traditional lines. The writers personal observation is that the 'Estonia' was exactly organised as the ferries in the Red Sea, that the writer knows a little about. (Note May 2000 by writer - I was wrong; The 'Estonia' had no realistic or working emergency organisation).

4.6 The Circumstances of the Voyage - actual Stability

The Final Report - Chapter 6 - states:

"On departure from Tallinn on 27 September the 'Estonia' was seaworthy and properly manned. The maintenance standard of the vessel was good as witnessed by various instances".

Furthermore the Final Report states:

"The transverse metacentric height GoM was 1.17 m. According to the valid stability booklet the minimum required metacentric height (GoM) was 0.63 m".

It is very unlikely that the minimum operating GoM could have been 0.63 m. With such small GoM 200 tonnes of water on the side of the car deck (leverage 10 m) would have heeled the 'Estonia' (displacement 13 000 tonnes) 13.72°. My conclusion is that the 'Estonia' must have had a much larger GoM to survive two compartments flooding below waterline 4.4.

4.7 Summary of Testimonies by Survivors

The Final Report includes only 'edited' testimonies. All testimonies - mostly simple questionaires filled in by the police - have first been translated into Swedish and English and have then been 'edited' by Mr. Bengt Schager, 1.18 and 1.19. The 'editing' means that items that were not considered important by Schager were deleted. This is shown clearly in the 'editing' of testimonies of passengers, who have also talked to other parties. Many interesting remarks have just disappeared in the 'editing' by Schager. In (12) this is explained as witnesses' remarks being of no importance.

It is interesting to note in the Final Report that the watchman Linde, who in 1.22 of this book is described of giving two versions of what happened aboard just before the accident, in the Final Report gives eight versions of the same events. It should be clear that Linde has been forced to modify his first statements to suit the 'water on the car deck' scenario.

In all eight versions there is no mention at all about passengers reporting water on deck no. 1 in (a) a telephone call (to second officer B (Kannussar)) on the bridge and (b) when meeting Linde in the stairwell before the sudden listing occurred as reported by Linde in DN 1.22. Why would Linde have made up a story about water on deck no. 1 to an Estonian speaking journalist from Dagens Nyheter in October 1994? There is one mention in (13) that 'deck 1 is under water' or 'there is water on deck 1' by passengers, when Linde had reached deck no. 7.

It is interesting to note that Linde never actually says and that nobody in the Commission asks him, when the sudden listing occurred and what it felt like.

Regardless, it is quite clear that Linde never saw any water on the car deck in the superstructure and that the inner ramp was always weathertight before 01.00 hrs.

3/E Treu has been interviewed seven times and gives many different descriptions of what happened. Interestingly enough previous reports 1.22 that Treu overheard Lindes walkietalkie conversation with the bridge (10) has been deleted and there is no mention that Treu tried to ballast the ship upright. The Final Reports instead says that Treu heard Linde saying (from the car deck around 01.15 hrs) that 'there is water on the car deck'.

Treu says that

'the effect of inflow of water at 01.15 was immediate, the ship developing a 2-3 degree list to starboard'.

Treu does not mention the sudden listing 50° to starboard at 01.02 hrs reported by survivors to the Germans (11) 3.16. Treu never saw the ramp fully open 4.23. There are several testimonies about people who had fallen on the decks and were hurt after the first sudden listing. This shows that the sudden listing was considerable and not like Treu's 2-3 degrees increasing to 20° during a few minutes.

There were 19 survivors who escaped from cabins on deck no. 1 below the car deck. Many noticed water on deck no. 1 before 01.00 hrs and that the water came from below, even if the 'edited' testimonies minimise the importance of these observations. However, not even the Final Report can disregard the testimony from JS in the foremost cabin on deck no. 1, who reported that water came into his cabin on the floor, when the alarm in Estonian was given. The JAIC has never asked, where this water came from - according to JAIC the 'Estonia' was trimming several meters on the stern and listing 30-40° to starboard at that time, so no water on the car deck could have flowed forward (upward) to JS cabin (no. 1120 in the centreline most forward on deck no. 1).

Note September 2001 - The Swedish journalist Knut Carlqvist, Ph.D, has in his Swedish book 'Tysta leken'.(May 2001) carefully studied the testimonies of the survivors from deck 1. The majority of these survivors reported two, three hard noises from below, as if the ship collided with something before the sudden listing took place. Water definiteley flowed up from below, i.e. the bottom (or the bilge) of the ship hull must have been damaged in one or more compartments. By checking official video films made by the JAIC of the hull it was found that the films have been cut and edited so that it was impossible to follow the documentation of the hull. There are no reference points, the films start and stop at unknown locations and you have today no possibility to verify the hull using the official films.

It is said that several (un-named!) witnesses passing deck no. 2 up the staircase reported 'cold water running down the bulkhead and onto the floor'. One witness saw 'water spraying from chinks in the closed door leading to the car deck'. How this is possible the JAIC does not say, as water in the superstructure on the car deck trims and heels the ship and collects in the lowest part (in the starboard aft corner) and does not flow down into the hull and deck no. 1 forward. The writer does not believe these testimonies and assume that they are made up - 'edited' - by the JAIC.

There are testimonies in (13) from the training second officer, the third engineer, the motorman, the systems engineer and Linde, that the 'Estonia' sank with the stern first and that the visor was missing at the bow. Some of these witnesses had jumped into the water without life jackets and had had difficulties to get into a life raft or on a life boat, but they all saw that the visor was missing at the bow. However, none of them have said that the inner ramp was open! It is therefore not clear if the ramp was open, when the ship sank or if it had closed itself before the ship sank.

The Final Report does not mention that other survivors reported that the ship sank with the bow first. It seems that such reports have been 'edited' away in (13).

4.8 Limitations of the Diving Survey

In FR8.4 it is clearly said that the accident underwater diving survey was limited to only the bridge and the vessel's bow area 1.14. The diving survey was supplemented by ROV inspection of certain areas, but the certain areas are not specified. You wonder why the compartments in the hull below deck no. 1 were not inspected by divers, as survivors had indicated that these compartments were flooded before the sudden listing occurred. In fact the Swedish Maritime Administration's dive survey 1.14 included the no. 1 deck 4.14.

In FR8.5.1 it is said that no external damage other than that in the visor and forward ramp area was observed on the wreck. But according to FR8.4 divers did not inspect the whole ship and ROV inspection was only done of certain areas, so the statement is not proven. Dr. Witte on pages 66-67 in (12) suggests that after having observed all the video films that

'You can clearly see the starboard side of deck 0 is above the mud so that you should be able to observe a hole. When I watched the video film and when the ROV, the Remote Operated Vehicle with the camera, approached the area where the supposed hole was, the picture disappeared 1.23. Then the picture continued at another location. On the video film the time is shown and other data, i.a. the depth, and it is easy to see that the video has been interrupted at the first location and restarted at a second location'.

Witte adds that the German police from the copy of the video could not say whether the copy was 'edited' or the recording was simply stopped.

In FR8.5.1 is another interesting statement - 'A door in the front bulkhead on deck 5 was open'. This is the part of the ship (the deck house (!)) that the JAIC considers watertight in Chapter FR12 4.18. Note that there was also doors in the aft bulkheads on decks nos. 4 and 5.

It is very strange that the car deck was not inspected. If the ship had sunk with the stern first, all the vehicles on the car deck would have shifted to aft and the bow area at the ramp would have been free. If the vessel had sunk with the bow first cars and trucks could have rolled forward and pushed open the ramp. It should have been easy to cut a hole in the port side of the garage for access 4.14.

4.9 Destruction of Evidence

The locking bolt for the bottom lock was removed and brought to the surface (FR8.4). It is not stated in (13) that this part was then thrown back into the sea without even a photograph being taken of it. It is probable that scratch marks on the locking bolt indicated that the visor had been stricken off the ship sideways. In FR8.6.1 it is said that the bolt was only worn at the contact area i.w.o. the mating lug. Then it is said that no other damage to the bolt was noted. Such a statement does not exclude that there were scratch marks on the bolt, which of course is not a real 'damage' according JAIC. Other 'damages' not mentioned were marks on the bolt, that it had been hammered in and out of its housing 3.14. These marks are clearly shown on the video films and reported in (11). The JAIC does not mention them in the Final Report.

The JAIC has orally stated that the reason for throwing the bolt back into the water was that the helicopter was full and that the bolt was too heavy - its weight was 30 kilograms! However the JAIC brought up eleven other parts of the ship (as per FR8.4), none of which was thrown into the water and, including e.g. the bell, which was much heavier (70 kilograms) than the bolt.

Evidently the throwing away of the bolt was pure destruction of evidence.

Note August 2000 - in view of the writers latest conclusion that the Atlantic lock was not even in use during the fatal voyage, it is probable that the condition of the bolt concluded just that - maybe the bolt was covered by oil and dust and dirt showing that it had not been used, or maybe it was slightly bent due to previous damage so it did not fit? - In any case, the bolt was thrown back into the water.

4.10 Visor was stricken off Sideways

In FR8.5.3 are the visor damages outlined. It is said that the bottom of the visor was heavily pounded and distorted (figure FR8.6) and compressed upwards up to about 0.5 m. This is misleading as only the forward part of the visor bottom was damaged - see figure 3.11. If the accident took place as outlined by the JAIC these damages should have been made after the locks had failed and when the visor was flipping up and down around the deck hinges, and there must have been hard noises every time the visor slammed down on the forepeak deck.

It is not pointed out that the damage to the recess for the port locating horn (fig. FR8.8) indicates that the visor was stricken off sideways from starboard. The reason is that the starboard side plate of the recess is ripped open as if the starboard side had been in contact with the horn, when the visor was pushed sideways against it.

It is furthermore not pointed out that the starboard attachment structure of the bottom lock mating lug on the visor is buckled (fig. FR8.10). This damage together with the fact that the port attachement structure is cracked (fractured both vertically in the face plate connection to the lug and horizontally in the web plate) and that the lug itself is bent to starboard (fig. FR12.18) indicates that the visor was stricken off from starboard. The damages are not the result of the lug being pulled away from the locking bolt in its housing 3.7 and the damages are unlikely the result of the visor flipping up and down around the deck hinges and slamming into the forepeak deck Appendix.

It is pointed out in the Final Report that you can see the inside of the ramp deck housing on the visor on fig. FR8.7. The two outboard stiffeners on port side are bent a little. The outside of the housing (fig. FR8.4) is virtually undamaged. The JAIC has suggested that the visor housing was resting on the top of the ramp before the visor was pulling out the ramp, but the damages inside the housing are too small to support that suggestion 3.14.

The conclusion should be that the visor was stricken off the ship sideways from starboard, when the ship with >34° list slammed the visor side into the wave surface 2.8.

Note July 2000 - actually, it is quite probable that the bottom lock damages were incurred before the fatal voyage by an impact/collision force from starboard to port and that the bottom lock could not be used at all.

All the information in the Final Report supports this conclusion. The damages to the bottom structure of the visor were incurred, when the visor was loose and slammed against the forepeak deck, when the list was >34° and just before the visor was lifted off.

Note August 2000 - however, the fore peak deck, against which the visor should have slammed is intact and un-damaged! The Independent Fact Group, Stockholm, has suggested that many of the visor bottom damages were caused when the visor was salvaged in November 1994.

4.11 Ramp Damages

In FR8.5.4 are the ramp damages described. It is not stated clearly that the ramp was never inspected from inside the garage. It is stated that the ramp was inspected primarily from its lower side (sic!) due to limited access to the upper side. The statement is confusing, as the whole outer side (bottom/lower side when the ramp is lowered) was very easy to access, while the inner side (top/upper side of the ramp, when the ramp was down) was never accessed or inspected at all. Therefore the ramp hooks on the inside were never inspected! Nor was the top plate of the ramp itself inspected. As it had been suggested several times that the ramp was pushed open a little from inside by shifting cargo, when the ship sank (on the bow!) to the position the ramp was found in, it is amazing that JAIC never bothered to make a full inspection of the ramp from inside.

It is said that the two port hinges at the bottom of the ramp were torn apart and it is indicated that this was a result of the accident. However, the German Group of Experts (11) has clearly shown that these were old damages reported by the ship's staff to the Owner and had been put on a repair list! It is said that the hydraulic actuators of the ramp had failed, but there is no proof for this. It is said that the wires preventing the ramp from falling down had detached from the lugs both sides, but there is no proof for this. There were deep indentations on the outside beams, but there is no proof that it has anything to do with the accident. It is stated that the ramp port side beam was damaged in several places, but again there is no proof that it has anything to do with the accident. It is said that the lugs for the pull in locking hooks were twisted, but that the hooks themselves could not be inspected. It is said that the side locking bolt pockets were twisted to open (i.e. were damaged except the lower port one). There are no pictures of all these alleged damages.

There is no proof whatsoever in section FR8.5.4 that the visor has pulled open the ramp.

Note August 2000 - many proofs that the ramp was never pulled open have been presented during 2000 by i.a. the Independent Fact Group - the ramp locks were not ripped open as alleged, they are intact; the ramp side guard rails would first have been damaged by the side lock bolts and would later have prevented the ramp from closing, the guard rails are first seen intact on the early video films and have later been cut off (!) and removed, probably during the dive survey in December 1994.

4.12 The Visor Bottom Lock

It is said that the recovered parts have been investigated with regard to properties of the material. This is not true. The locking bolt material was never checked.

4.13 The Visor Side Locks

The side locks were not recovered from the wreck. It is said that the divers estimated the play in the lock to ten millimetres. The visor lugs are said to have been torn off from the visor in the downwards and aft directions. If you refer to 3.8 you see that the visor lugs should have been torn straight away from the visor, if the bottom lock had failed and the deck hinges were intact. The Germans say (11) that the lugs were torn off in the downwards direction (after the deck hinges had failed). Actually it is quite clear that the lugs sheared off in the sideways and upwards directions, when the visor was stricken off sideways (when the ship had >34° list) 4.10.

4.14 Diving Inspection of no. 1 Deck - Why was the Garage not inspected?

The no. 1 deck was in fact inspected by divers (part FR8.9 and fig. FR8.27). Deck no. 1 was inspected by divers of the Swedish Maritime Administration to establish the condition of the ship for possible salvage. It seems the divers made two holes in the port side of the 'Estonia' at about frs. 68 and 110 and entered the third and sixth cabin compartments (from forward). The diver was then on top of the sauna compartment and could easily have descended to inspect the sauna compartment.

Note August 2000 - according to the German report in June 2000 one diver actually went down and inspected the sauna for 1 hour 6 minutes on 3 December 1994. This inspection was deleted from the dive log.

It is probable that there is a damage in the starboard side shell in the sauna compartment on deck no. 0 at frames 98 - 110 or further aft. As an access hole is already made in the port side on deck no. 1 level, it is extremely simple for a diver to go down again and inspect the sauna. It can be done very quickly. If the sauna is full of mud it is clear that there is a hole in the starboard side.

Note August 2000 - the starboard shell damage is probably in the stabilizer compartment aft of the sauna compartment.

It is said that (FR8.12) that the divers could only inspect one watertight door on deck no. 1, which was closed. However, the diver's route on figure FR8.27 indicates that the diver passed very close to two watertight doors and was about 6 metres away from a third watertight door, so it is strange that the positions of two other doors were not noted.

An observation. If the divers could cut two holes in the side to enter deck no. 1, why did they not cut a hole in the side of the garage to inspect the ramp and its closing appliances from inside?

Note August 2000 - by studying the official video films which became available in 1999 several independent investigators have shown that the divers were in fact inside the garage and inspected the ramp closing appliances from inside. The ramp closing appliances were not damaged!.

4.15 International Co-operation

For some reason the Final report has a chapter FR9 about international co-operation. The JAIC work itself is not an example of such international co-operation. It is not mentioned in chapter 9 that IMO resolutions A.440 (XI) and A.637(16) have regulations for international co-operation of marine accident investigations, e.g. that all details of the accident and all the hearings of any accident investigation shall be public. The JAIC ignored these regulations of international co-operation for 38 months. All details and hearings of the Commission were secret. No explanation for this is given in the Final Report, except a statement that the JAIC considered itself completely independent from the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden.

The Final report presents only 'edited' testimonies of survivors and very strange 'details' of the accident as outlined in this book. It should be clear to anybody that the Commission prevented international co-operation to improve safety at sea for 38 months.

4.16 The 'Herald of Free Enterprise'

The Final report mentions the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' in FR9.5. This ship capsized about 800 metres outside Zeebrügge in 1987.

It is said that

'When the ship increased speed, the bow wave exceeded the freeboard and water started to enter the (car) deck through the open bow doors. In less than two minutes at least 500 t of water had accumulated on the (car) deck and the vessel capsized'.

What is not said is that the ship actually heeled 90° in less than two minutes and then struck the bottom, i.e. the ship rested on its port side on the bottom (as the depth was only 12-14 meters) and she did not sink. If the water depth had been larger, the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' would have turned upside down and floated on the air trapped below the car deck inside the hull. This is what the 'Estonia' should have done with water on the car deck.

It is amazing that the JAIC makes reference to the 'Herald of Free Enterprise', which capsized in less than 2 minutes due to water on the car deck, and still maintains that the 'Estonia' sank for the same reason, even if it took >40 minutes for the 'Estonia' to sink.

Addendum January 2001 - it could be added that the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' turned over so quickly that all passengers in the port outside cabins drowned immediately. The passengers in the starboard cabins, which rested above water, were lucky - they ended up on the inside walls but could not get out from the cabins. The passengers in the full breadth saloons had a terrible experience. The saloons became indoor 'swimming pools' where the deck, the bulkheads and the ceiling were the sides and where the only opening and escape were the doors and windows about six metres above the water level. Here the passengers were trapped - they could not possibly climb up to the starboard side in the open. In the garage all the vehicles were smashed against each other and the port side and destroyed. No evacuation was possible - the life saving equipment were never used.

4.17 Forces and Moments acting on the Visor

The misinformation of the JAIC continues in Chapter FR12 with a presentation of various technical investigations.

The forces and moments on the visor were determined by the SSPA (a Swedish research centre). Tests were made in head seas and with the waves 30° on the bow, disregarding the fact that the waves were probably 60° on the bow 4.20. After a lengthy presentation, which does not explain that the locks and hinges cannot transmit moments and which does not explain how much load and 'moment' are transmitted by other contact points except locks and hinges, e.g. guide horns, vertical rubbers, etc. it is concluded that the maximum load experienced by the visor of the 'Estonia' during the last hour was 3.6 MN upwards (minus 0.6 MN own weight) and 3.6 MN longitudinally aft, i.e. the load on the visor was five to six times the weight. Evidently such a big vertical load - 360 tonnes - cannot be a buoyancy load, 3.2, 3.7 and 4.23, but is an impact load.

Note August 2000 - for more info.

What is an impact load of 3.6 MN? Say that it is applied over 5 m2 vertical projection. Then the pressure applied is 0.72 MP (megaPascal) or 72 metre pressure head on the visor! You then wonder how long and how often such pressures were applied to the visor. The report does not say! The obvious question, if the impact loads applied to the visor had enough energy to damage the bottom lock, the side locks, the piston supports, the bottom of the visor and the hinges, remains unanswered. If the impact load had enough energy to break a steel bottom lock, it should have been heard clearly on board as a big BANG. But no distinct BANG was ever heard.

4.18 Simulation of Flooding and Sinking of the vessel

In chapter FR12.6 it is said, that we will be told, how the 'Estonia' sank. First we are told what happens with 400 tonnes of water on the car deck in the superstrcture. The 'Estonia' heels 10°. Is that true? We have previously been told that the 'Estonia' had a displacement 11 930 m3 and GoM 1.17 m (table FR5.1). If we assume that the heeling arm of the 400 tonnes of water in the side of the garage is 10 m (see figure 2.16.1B), i.e. the heeling moment is 4 000 t-m, then the heeling angle, a, is found from tan (a) = heeling moment/(displacement x GoM), i.e. tan (a) = 4 000/((11 930 x 1.01 + 400)*1.17) = 0.2746 and a is 15.36°.

Actually it does not matter too much if the 'Estonia' heels 10° or 15° with 400 tonnes of water on the car deck in the superstructure, because here is the first acknowledgement by the JAIC that the 'Estonia' actually heels with water on the car deck and that the heel angle is a function of the amount of water on the deck (and the heeling arm). The water becomes trapped in the outer side of the garage of the superstructure. What happens then? The water trims the ship on the stern or bow! The water then becomes trapped in the aft or forward corner of the superstructure between the sloping deck and side.

It means that the water wedge is trapped between the sloping deck and the ship's sides and will not flow down into the hull and the deck no. 1 below, because the openings to the deck below are in a dry spot at the centreline above from e.g. the starboard aft corner of the garage.

Then the JAIC says that 1 000 tonnes of water on the car deck in the superstructure heels the vessel just over 20°. If GoM was only 1.17 m 4.6 the heel could have been larger - say 30° - it depends on the heeling arm. The situation is very similar to the 'Herald of Free Enterprise', 4.16 and figure 2.16.1C, which capsized with at least 500 tonnes water on the car deck. So will the 'Estonia' capsize?

The Final report says

'As long as the hull was intact and watertight ........ above (sic) the car deck, the residual stability with water on the car deck would not have been significantly changed at large heel angles (Figure FR12.12)'.

Figure FR12.12, showing that the righting arm (GZ) is positive and increases with the heel until 90° heel, is totally misleading as you cannot assume that the side up to deck no. 8 is watertight. Evidently the 'Estonia' was not watertight above the car deck! No ship is watertight above the weather deck. The superstructure (decks nos. 2 and 3) was in this case open at the bow! Deck no. 4 was the weather deck and the deck house of the 'Estonia' was not watertight above the weather deck. The 'Herald of Free Enterprise' 4.16 was not watertight above the weather deck and she capsized in two minutes with water on the car deck. Evidently the 'Estonia' should have done the same thing, which is indicated in figure FR12.13, where the 'Estonia' capsizes with about 1 500 tons of water on the car deck in the superstructure. But the 'Estonia' did not capsize after 40 minutes. She was floating on the non-weathertight side of the superstructure and the deck house! Why! The answer is that there was no water on the car deck in the superstructure, which was still weather tight. The answer should be that there were thousands of tonnes of water in the hull below the car deck, which (a) was sinking the ship while (b) it was stabilising the ship 2.20 and fig. 2.16.2E. The hull was leaking.

The Final Report now says

'As soon as water was free to enter the (nos.4, 5 and 6) accommodation decks all residual stability would be impaired and the ship in practice lost'.

Impaired? Why not say that the righting arm (GZ) is negative and that there is no stability left (like the 'Herald of Free Enterprise')!

'Ship is in practice lost'? Why not say that the 'Estonia' should have turned upside down and floated on the hull with the keel up (which the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' should have done, if the water depth were larger), if there were water on the car deck. But the JAIC cannot admit this, because everyone knows that the 'Estonia' sank slowly and did not turn upside down until very late in the sinking process (when the car deck was actually flooded from deck no. 1 level - see figure 2.16.2E/F).

4.19 Water Inflow Simulations

In FR12.6.2 JAIC tries to explain how much water flowed through the ramp opening.

'The results cannot be used to independently prove (sic) a certain time sequence of water inflow',

the report says. However, the JAIC is brave, so it says that water inflow into the superstructure was 300-600 t/min and that a heel angle of about 20° could possibly have developed within just one or a few minutes. What happens next?

The report says

'The successive phases of the capsize are dealt with in more detail further on in this report, where the time sequence and the full (sic) capsize scenario are analysed based on witnesses' (sic) statements and an interpretation of the results obtained from these simulations'.

So we have to move to section FR13.2.1 and FR13.2.6 of the report.

4.20 Development of the List and the Sinking of the Vessel

In Figure FR13.2 of the Final Report the JAIC's course of events is illustrated 2.23.

In the figure the visor falls off at 01.14 hrs and between 01.16 hrs and 01.20 hrs the vessel turns sharply 180°, when the speed drops to 6 knots, and sails back to Tallinn on course 107° for ten minutes (but with a starboard yaw of 40-50°, so that the heading (course) is 122-160°. Then she drifts. The figure FR13.2 assumes that the wave direction is ENE (247.5°), while Table FR5.4 says it could as well have been NNE (216°), a difference of 30°. The angle of heel is increasing all the time. The various data in Figure FR13.2 is listed in the table:-





Water on cardeck

Rate of inflow





























1 400






1 900






2 050






>6 000


As can be seen the inflow was 600 t/min for one minute and then no water flowed in (as the list was constant). Then for four minutes 200 t/min flowed in and the list became 30°. Then another 250 t/min flowed in for two minutes and than the inflow was reduced to 75 t/min for two minutes and then suddenly it increased to >600 t/min between 01.24 hrs and 01.30 hrs because at 01.30 hrs the list was 60-70°. Smoothing out the figures we could say that for 10 minutes there was an inflow of about 200 t/min, during which time the ship had relatively high speed and a direction of the bow opening into the waves, and then, when the ship had no speed at all and when the bow opening was directed away from the waves (course 157°) there was 6 minutes of increased inflow of >600 t/min!




Water on car deck

Rate of inflow


h.m. - h.m.









0-2 050


stable with list




2 050-6 000



There is no logic at all here. In the supplements to the Final Report it is shown, that inflow through the bow cannot be 600 t/min with the speed <2 knots and with the bow opening directed away from the waves. Actually the whole plot in fig. FR13.2 is completely unrealistic, as the 'Estonia' should have capsized (turned upside down and floated with the keel up) with only 1 500 tons of water on the car deck in the superstructure at 01.21 hrs figure 2.16.1C. You cannot interpret the increased inflow after 01.24 hrs as water on decks nos. 4, 5 and 6, because the water there is not trapped inside the ship but part of the outside sea (through open windows, etc.) and does not heel the ship and does not contribute to loss of buoyancy. Only water trapped on the car deck in the superstructure can heel (and trim) the ship! Only water in the hull can sink the ship!

Note August 2000 - the plot Figure FR13.2 above is in fact a falsification. The original plot made by the Kalmar Maritime Academy assumes i.a. that <2 000 tons of water flowed in through the bow opening during the whole accident and that the ship floated high and dry until at least 01.50 hrs and thus could drift with a speed >2 knots. The JAIC falsification consists of increasing the angle of list two times as shown in the figure and the amount of water inside the ship at the given times ten times with no regard to the fact that the ship then would have stopped - and floated upside down).

When the Mayday is sent at 01.24 hrs, the vessel in Figure FR13.2 is about one mile North of the position given in the Mayday - table FR7.3 in the Final Report 2.23, and JAIC does not comment upon this fact. The JAIC does not explain at all, how they have developed the course of events of the 'Estonia' between 01.14 and 01.51 hrs. The plot is extremely strange - because on Figure FR17.1 all the other vessels' tracks during the rescue operation are given, but the 'Estonia' is just a black dot at about the Mayday position, which is much further South than given in Figure FR13.2. Why wasn't the 'Estonia' tracked? The Final Report does not say!

The error in Figure FR13.2 is that JAIC assumes that the 'Estonia' was on course 287° at 01.14 hrs and then turned 180° back to Tallinn. There is no proof anywhere in the report, that this was the case. The German Group of Experts have suggested that (a) the sudden listing occurred earlier than 01.15 hrs, at 01.02 hrs, and (b) that the 'Estonia' then turned South and that (c) the 'Estonia' lost its visor later, and this is of course what is suggested in this book. JAIC has never commented upon these suggestions. What is wrong with the assumption that the 'Estonia' turned before the visor was lost? The Final Report does not say! Point 2.23 is a more logical plot of events.

Actually, the 'Estonia' must have been tracked by both the shore radar station at Utö (in Finland) and by 'Silja Europe' because the track of 'Silja Europe' on Figure FR17.1 starts at 00.12 hrs, i.e. one hour before the 'Estonia' accident started. The 'Mariella' is plotted from 01.18 hrs, so why is not the 'Estonia' plotted from, say 01.00 hrs? It is clear that the 'Estonia' was seen on shore radar, because it is stated that Utö radar station lost the 'Estonia' from the screen at 01.48 hrs 1.11.5. JAIC does not mention in (13) what happened to the recordings of the radar observations at Utö.

4.21 The Sinking of the M/S 'Estonia' - Water on the Car Deck

Anyway - how did water on the car deck in the superstructure sink the 'Estonia'? In section FR13.2.6 it says that

'water first entered the car deck along the sides of the ramp as observed by the third engineer at 01.10-01.15. After the ramp had been forced open, large amounts of water are alleged (sic) to have caused the vessel to heel over and a significant list to starboard developed'.

The JAIC has forgotten that the systems engineer working with the third engineer did not see any water on the car deck and saw that the ramp was closed 4.23. But note the JAIC lingo - "large amounts of water are alleged to have caused the vessel to heel over" - they know it is fantasy.

What happened then?

'During the port turn (at 01.16-01.20) more water continued to enter the car deck and the list increased to 20-30°, where the vessel for some minutes stabilised as the water inflow decreased'.

The list became 40°! There was 2 050 tons of water on the car deck in the superstructure. And then?

'Water continued to enter the car deck through the bow, but at a significant lower rate',

the report says. According 4.20 the inflow rate increased three times after 01.24 hrs?.

Then the report says

'As the flooding progressed, the list and the trim by the stern increased and the vessel started to sink'.

No time is given for this. Say it is at 01.24 hrs! The Mayday is sent. The list is 40° as per Figure FR13.2. The amount of water on the car deck in the superstructure at 40° list is 2 050 tonnes as per Figure FR12.13. Then the engine room in the hull is still dry (as reported by the third engineer, who left a dry engine room at 01.30 hrs as per FR6.2.3, when the list was considerable) and the whole hull forward of the engine room below the car deck must also have been dry, as no water can have flowed down there - all the water on the car deck in the superstructure was on the starboard side aft! Nowhere in the Final Report is the trim shown. There is 18 000 m3 of air trapped in the hull below the car deck! According to JAIC all the watertight doors in the hull below the car deck were closed. There are 14 watertight compartments below the car deck and all were dry! According to all conventional stability theory then 'Estonia' should then have turned upside down, like the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' now, but the 'Estonia' is stable with 40° heel.

There is no chance that the 'Estonia' sinks due to 2 000 tonnes of water on the car deck in the superstructure at 01.24 hrs 5.5. She should have capsized.

According to Figure FR13.2 at 01.30 the list is suddenly 60-70°. During six minutes the list has increased by 30°. How much water is then on the car deck in the superstructure? >6 000 tonnes according to Figure FR12.13!

How on earth did >4 000 tonnes of water suddenly enter the superstructure between 01.24 and 01.30 hrs in six minutes? And how is it physically possible that there are >6 000 tonnes of water on the sloping car deck. Is there space enough? The Final Report does not say. In my opinion it is physically impossible that there could have been >6 000 tonnes of water on the car deck in the superstructure heeling the vessel 60-70°. The vessel would have capsized already with 2 000 tonnes.

How could the water on the car deck in the superstructure flood 14 watertight compartments of total 18 000 m3 below the car deck in the hull? The Final Report does not say. Instead it says

'The sinking continued, stern first, and the vessel disappeared at about 01.50'.

Nobody disagrees that the ship sank at 01.50 hrs (or probably 01.35 hrs), but the report does not say how 14 watertight compartments below the car deck in the hull with 18 000 m3 of air trapped was filled with water.

In conclusion - the JAIC in its report does not explain how the 'Estonia' hull was filled with water so that she sank. The writer has of course asked JAIC for 38 months how the 'Estonia' sank with water on the car deck in the superstructure, and the only answer has been, that it will be explained in the Final Report. But the Final Report does not explain how the 'Estonia' hull filled with water, so that she sank! How could >6 000 tonnes of water fill the car deck? How was the 18 000 m3 of air trapped below the car deck in 14 watertight compartments of the hull lost, so the 'Estonia' sank? The Final report does not say.

To back up its unreal sinking scenario the Commission adds computer-generated pictures in figures FR13.3-5. While the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' capsized in 2 minutes with at least 500 tons of water on the car deck, the 'Estonia' takes 25 minutes to turn 115°. According to all established stability theory the 'Estonia' should have turned upside down with about only 1 500 tons of water on the car deck considering the bad weather and then floated upside down with the keel three meters above the waterline. The Final Report does not say who made the computer pictures and how? It is interesting (and easy!) to visualise the water inside the garage of the superstructure. 400 tonnes of water forms an average 1 metre high and 5.6 m wide wedge at the side of the sloping deck (at about 10-15° heel) with leverage 10 m, disregarding trim 4.18. 1 000 tonnes of water forms an average 2.24 m high and 6.15 m wide wedge at the side (and should have heeled the vessel 20-30°. When this water trims the ship on the stern, the wedge becomes higher and wider aft. 2000 tonnes of water forms an average 4.3 metre high and 6.4 m wide water wedge - see figure 2.16.1D and should tip the vessel upside down. If the vessel is prevented from tipping upside down, this water trims the ship on the stern and the water will touch the underside of deck 4 aft on the starboard side. 6 000 tonnes of water on the car deck sloping 65° does not form a wedge on the car deck anymore, as the water is trapped by the car deck, the ship's side and the underside of deck no. 4! The car deck is wet for average 7.8 m from the side and the underside of no. 4 deck is wet for about 5.4 m from the side, disregarding trim - the whole side of the garage is full of water from bow to stern average width 6.6 m at mid-height, but only 35% of the car deck is wet, because the heel is 65°. Half the starboard side and the whole port side is dry and above the water. The condition with 6 000 tonnes of water on the car deck is 100% unstable and the 'Estonia' should turn upside down in seconds. The JAIC says it is a stable condition! How can the JAIC state that the 'Estonia' is stable with 6 000 tonnes of water in the garage at 01.30 hrs, when it is not physically possible?

4.22 Personal Reflections

Why do I care about all above? I have nothing to do with the 'Estonia'. I do not know any survivors or relatives. I have not lived in Sweden since 1970. It is clear to me that the whole Commission does not know anything about stability or how ships sink. Should I care about that? Nobody else seems to care! I care about seamen and passengers. The North European shipping industry and the IMO are very silent about the whole thing. I have learnt about ro-ro passengerships in the Red Sea and East Med since 1980. But the rules are the same. And the stability theory is the same. I find it amazing that the JAIC dares to publish completely false stability calculations and then, based on these false calculations, which show that the 'Estonia' could not capsize, when she should capsize, alleges that the 'Estonia' sinks, when she could not sink. The Final Report is quite a clever document because it mixes false and correct calculations, allegations and testimonies and it is very difficult to follow the report. Such reports cannot be used by, e.g. the IMO, when changing their rules. The IMO and serious maritime administrations can evidently not accept the JAIC Final Report, so it will be interesting to see what happens. A new investigation is required.

Note February 2004 - The writer is now convinced that the Swedish Navy removed the visor of the 'Estonia' below water using explosives and by pulling it off the wreck one week after the accident - to enable the JAIC to blame the accident on the visor.

4.23 Failure Sequence of Bow Visor and Ramp

In section FR13.5 JAIC explains the failures of the visor and the ramp. It is said that the visor attachements were insufficient to withstand 7-9 MN wave load - 900 tons! In Chapter FR12 the maximum load was 3.6 MN 4.17, now it has doubled. Such loads cannot possibly be periodic wave loads, so they must be transient impact loads, the energy of which can be very small. It is not the force that causes damage, it is the energy. The (potential) energy was too small to lift or flip the visor up on the focsle deck for example. Nowhere in the whole Final Report is the energy calculated, which was required to destroy the visor attachements 3.7. It is difficult to visualise a 9 MN (900 tonnes) wave impact load on the visor. These loads were reportedly measured in model tests, and considering scale effects, must still have been quite spectacular. It is a pity there is no photo in the Final Report of such an impact! The visor side is at 45° to the waterline, so it is not easy to slam it into the water, so that there is an impact 2.15. If such high impact pressures are applied to the visor side, so that the vertical component is 900 tonnes, you wonder what the horizontal component was or the pressures had been on the flat bottom of the ship itself, when it slammed into the waves. To me it seems logical to assume that any crew would have slowed down the ship or changed course before such high impact loads started to damage the bow (and the visor). The Final Report does not discuss, why the crew never considered slowing down.

It is said that all visor attachements failed under tension, which is obvious. However, the remaining explanations how the bottom lock, the side locks, the hinges and the hydraulic lifting cylinders were ripped off are not convincing. Then the deck beam (bulkheads) at fr. 159 were cut through and the visor fell forward and rested on the ramp, 3.10 and 3.11.

The Final Report says

'Probably (sic) in one single moment, the visor pulled the ramp forward so that its locking devices and hydraulic actuators failed'.

Probably? The weight of the visor was 55 tons. The visor was alleged to be resting on the fore peak deck and was tilting forward, but it was kept back by the ramp and the lifting pistons resting against the bulkhead at frame 159. The horizontal contact load at the top of the ramp was probably only 10 tons - 0.1 MN. See figure 3.10. According to FR15.8 the upper limit of the load carrying capability of one hook was 0.2 MN (The writer thinks it is much higher!) and of one side securing bolt was 0.2-0.3 MN. There were two hooks and four side securing bolts. How could a force by the visor of 0.1MN at the top of the ramp destroy two hooks and four side securing bolts?

The JAIC says that the six locking devices failed sequentially, but there is no proof for that either. Instead the JAIC says that

'A force applied to the top of the ramp from contact with the visor (0.1 MN as shown above - writer's note) had larger leverage (yes - the vertical leverage to the car deck is 6 m - writer's note) than the locking devices had (yes, the two hooks had leverage 4 m and the two upper side bolts about 3 m and the two lower side bolts about 1.0 m vertical leverage - writer's note), reducing the force actually required to break the devices'.

Simple calculation is that the moment of the contact force was 0.6 MNm. The retaining moment of one hook was 0.8 MNm, i.e. one hook only should have been able to retain the ramp in position. The total retaining moment of two hooks and four bolts is 3.2 MNm>0.6MNm of the visor acting on the ramp.

And then we have not included the wires/chains and the hydraulic actuators, which also retain the ramp.

The conclusion is very simple - the visor could never have pulled open the ramp.

But how was the ramp pulled open?

The only question that need to be answered is, if the ramp was pulled open at all 1.24.6. It is very possible, that the ramp was closed, when the ship sank (on the bow), when one trailer rolled forward and hit the ramp from inside and pushed it open a little bit. There is no indication, that the ramp has been pulled open 90° before the accident and then closed back to only <10° opening after the accident. Many witnesses say that they saw that the visor was missing, when the ship sank, but nobody in the water saw the ramp sticking out from the bow opening when the ship sank.

Note August 2000 - it would appear that the ramp was not locked at all but held back by some temporary arrangement with ropes. Note January 2001 - evidently the ramp was not pulled open at all as the visor was still attached to the ship when it sank.

It is very important to note that not one person in the engine control room (ECR) (FR6.2.3, FR 6.2.4 and FR 6.2.5) says that he saw the ramp 90° open. The third engineer watched the monitor several times and never saw the ramp open. The systems engineer entered the ECR after the listing had occurred and therefore, when the ramp should have been open, but he says that the ramp was partly open (see figure FR 6.1) but said later that maybe it was not true - he did not observe any water entering the car deck - the third engineer had told him that there was water on the car deck!! The motorman entered the ECR after the sudden list had occurred. He saw big waves on the car deck and that the water surface was level with the cars and does not mention the ramp. At this time the systems engineer arrived (who saw no water at all on the monitor).

The testimonies are very confusing, but one thing is certain - nobody in the ECR ever stated that the ramp was 90° open, even when they later were in the water 4.7. The systems engineer is honest and says that he saw no water at all on the car deck and that the third engineer had told him to say the contrary. The third engineer probably also told the motorman to say that there was water on the car deck. Nobody told the systems engineer and the motorman that the ramp was open, so they did not say that. The third engineer has according to an Estonian friend of mine disappeared from Estonia and cannot be questioned further. But maybe he has found employment on another ship abroad.

The problem is not the crew in the engine room. The problem is the JAIC, which already on October 4, 1994 1. 4 announced that water on the car deck had sunk the 'Estonia' (before the ramp had been inspected). The JAIC thought that a partially open ramp - as seen on the wreck - was sufficient to sink the 'Estonia' and said so in its first reports 1.11.4. Later it concluded that more water was necessary, so the ramp had to open up more and had to close later 1.11.5. Later the JAIC probably realised that the ramp had never been opened and that water on the car deck could not sink the 'Estonia' at all and there was panic inside JAIC. Stenström promised the Commission that he was able to write a convincing report. However, Stenström died and JAIC gave up - as seen from the Final Report there is no proof whatsoever that water on the car deck sank the 'Estonia'.

All the alleged noises of the separation of the visor are also summarised In FR13.2.5. Then it is said that these observations are described in detail in Chapter FR6. However, neither the 'observations' in FR13.2.5 and the 'details' in Chapter FR6 support the allegations in FR13.2.5 (compare 3.7-3.11 and 4.17).

4.24 The Findings

The Final Report summarises its findings in Chapter 20. The findings do not include:-

· that there was water on decks 0 and 1 before 01.00 hrs 2.2 and 3.18,

· that the 'Estonia' listed suddenly 50° to starboard at about 01.02 hrs and then came back to equilibrium at circa 15° starboard list 3.16,

· that the damages on the visor attachments indicate that the visor was stricken off sideways 4.10),

· that there is no proof that the bow ramp was more open than found down at the wreck 4.23,

· that the 'Estonia' should have turned upside down with circa 1500 tons of water on the car deck in the superstructure and should have floated upside down, 2.16 and 5.5 on the air-filled hull,

· that the 'Estonia' did not turn upside down (13),

· that the 'Estonia' had 14 watertight compartments in the hull below the car deck, which contained 18.000 m3 of trapped air, when the ship was listing >30°, and could not sink 4.21,

· that no ro-ro passengership type 'Estonia' has ever sunk due to water on the car deck in the superstructure, i.e. that this was the first time ever this type of alleged accident happened (a little water on a deck above waterline sinking a whole ship). Note that the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' 4.16 never sank! Ro-ro ships have sunk due to water on the ro-ro deck, but those ships had very small freeboard, i.e. the ro-ro deck was close to the waterline and damage stability did not permit carriage of passengers.

4.25 Improved Safety after the Accident

The Final Report includes a description of modified safety rules (Chapter 19) and conclusions and recommendations (Chapters 21 and 22).

The modified safety rules are explained in the next chapter - points 5.1-5.17.

What can you say about the conclusions? 'The 'Estonia' capsized due to large amounts of water entering the car deck in the superstructure, loss of stability and subsequent flooding of the accommodation decks'.

All observations are that the 'Estonia' never capsized. She was stable all the time after the accident with an increasing angle of heel. She was undoubtedly sinking due to a leak in the hull below the waterline. The no. 1 accommodation deck was no doubt flooded by a leak on deck 0 and through open watertight doors. Finally no. 1 deck filled up and water spilled out on the car deck. The flooding of all other accommodation decks inside a non-watertight and non-weathertight deck house had no influence whatsoever on the sinking, as the deck house never contributed to the buoyancy in the first place. The ship was evidently floating on the hull. To sink the hull must be filled with water. But the JAIC could not explain how the hull was filled with water.

The most important conclusion of the JAIC has no foundation at all and is wrong.

The recommendations do not include a recommendation for leak alarm in un-attended compartments below waterline and a recommendation that watertight doors close automatically when water is flowing trough them.

My opinion is that the Final Report does not contribute to better safety at sea at all. The nine members and the many experts responsible for it should be ashamed.


To Chapter 5 Back to Content