Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
The German Final Report (June 2000) 3.18
The Final report of the German group of experts was published on the internet in June 2000 at
The German report does not exist in printed form.
The Germans disapprove of in principle all statements of the official Final report (5) and confirm most of the statements in this book. However the German report does not describe in any detail the real critical items on the 'Estonia':
A. The watertight door system 1.23
The Germans present some new information.
Corroded Bottom Plates
The Germans suggest that the bottom plates were corroded and that one or more starboard double bottoms tanks were permanently flooded. The evidence is video pictures of the bottom and the fact that the port heeling tank was filled at Tallinn to upright the ship, 2.17 and Appendix 5. The official explanation, why the port heeling tank was full (>180 tons), was that the ferry was incorrectly loaded on the starboard side, but as explained in 2.17 the centre of gravity of the 'Estonia' was located to port, so that you had to carry about 100 tons in the starboard heeling tank for an upright condition without cargo. The crew thus should have loaded about 100 ton extra on the starboard side for an upright condition without water in the port heeling tank. Very confusing!
With about 180 tons of water in the port heeling tank at departure Tallinn 27 September 1994 the Germans think that there was about 180-280 tons of water in the starboard double bottom 1.25.
The writer's opinion is simple as always. If the shell plating were corroded in the double bottom, it is also possible that the structure was corroded in the sauna/pool compartment. Maybe it was the double bottom below the sauna/pool compartment that was flooded at departure Tallinn? The Germans do not specify, where the outer bottom was corroded.
But who has heard of a ferry sailing around with a corroded outer bottom hull plate, so that some double bottom tanks were always full and that it was full pressure - 5-6 meters head - on the inner bottom? It was extremely dangerous. Water was filling up the air pipes of these double bottom tanks to the waterline! You could not open the manholes in the inner bottom, because then you would flood the compartment above! The solution was of course immediate dry docking, so that you could repair the corroded shell plate and make the tanks tight. It could probably be done in 24-48 hours. Alternatively you could try to pump the tanks dry and to stop the leakage from inside with a 'cement' box or similarly. You could also use a diver and put a plate on the outside to stop the leakage - it could have been done in 12 hours - but dry docking was simpler.
Water on the Car Deck - open Stern Ramp
The German report is mostly about the visor and the bow ramp. Both were in bad condition and leaking. The water always flowed in at the bow ramp during bad weather. The water flowed aft on the starboard side and should have escaped through the eleven scuppers in the deck. The Germans suggest that the scuppers were closed or insufficient to drain the car deck and that the crew had opened the aft ramp a little, where the water could escape! This writer has never heard of such things. They seem utterly dangerous and stupid. But maybe the Germans are right. Bad weather was rare on the Baltic and it was only infrequent, when the car deck was partly flooded with water during a passage. But it must have been easier to make the bow ramp tight in the first place, when severe weather was expected. The opening was >2 meters above the waterline. Seamen are experts to make leaking hatches, etc. weather tight. Alternatively you could have slowed down a little at sea. Regardless, the Commission never asked the first officer and the crew of the replacement crew, who should have known, about the condition of the ramp and how they handled leakages at the ramp in severe weather.
Manipulated Dive Examination
The Germans present new findings from the Swedish NMA dive examination on 2-4 December 1994 1.16. The divers should have found the starboard, aft ramp open, which was not announced. But the divers did other things. Between 14.42-16.02 hrs on 3 December the diver S. Jessop was inspecting the sauna/pool compartment on deck no. 0, where the big leak is assumed to have taken place. To hide the fact that the compartment was in fact inspected from the inside the Rockwater A/S falsified the dive log!
Furthermore is seems clear that the divers cut off the side guard rails from the inner bow ramp 3.10 inside the superstructure. The guard rails were apparently salvaged to the dive ship 'Semi I' and later dumped about 250 meters South of the wreck, where they later were filmed by an ROV. Strange story!
Course of Events - the Position of the Visor
The German final course of events assumes that the visor was detached long after the sudden listing occurred. The ship had stopped and the angle of heel may have been >90 degrees, i.e. the visor fell of adjacent to the wreck. Then the visor could not have pulled open the ramp.
Damages due to explosive Devices
The Germans present pictures of various small damages in the fore ship area and conclude that they are due to explosives. No explanations are provided. This writer believes the damages are due to a successful attempt to remove the visor under water and to an unsuccessful attempt - also under water - to open the ramp a week after the accident. It would have taken place 3-5 October 1994 - probably by Swedish navy divers. The Germans never thought about that.
The person 1994 responsible for the maintenance and safety of the 'Estonia' was Mr. Ulf Hobro. He has always stated that the 'Estonia' was in very good condition, but has never produced any convincing evidence to this effect. Mr Hobro was a Swedish NMA ship inspector prior to looking after the 'Estonia'. After the accident Mr. Hobro disappeared but surfaced in September 1999 as the head of the Swedish NMA Stockholm ship safety office - appointed by Mr Johan Franson.
If the German allegations are true - corroded and leaking bottom shell plates, flooded double bottom tanks, inner bottom under full pressure, damaged and leaking visor and ramp, etc. - the 'Estonia' was a floating coffin. Regardless, with the findings of this writer - e.g. deficient life saving equipment 1.33 and irregular and non-functional internal watertight subdivision and open watertight doors 1.23 - the 'Estonia' was a death trap. The combination could only be one - disaster. And only a stupid disaster investigation could attempt to cover-up the facts and later only another real 'Disaster Investigation' - this one - could attempt to reveal the Truth. But the German contributions to the Truth of the casualty are finally nil. They could never explain anything and hid many inherent defects of the ship that was built by their principals - Meyer Werft, Papenburg.
German Up-date February 2007
The German Group of Experts has February 2007 up-dated its information at http://www.estonia.xprimo.de/start.html .
It seems that the Germans have not studied the Heiwa Co information as there are no references to it (except in section Corrections of German report Chapter 8 where Heiwa Co is quoted as a major ferry operator in non-European waters. Nevertheless the German info is interesting. They suggest that there is a big damage in the starboard superstructure side at fr. 140 but forget that the starboard pilot door is at frame 122 and that it later has been covered up with sand by divers. It is quite obvious that the starboard pilot door was in fact found open after the accident and that all access into the car deck space was done through that opening!