Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
Marine casualty or incident safety investigation means a process held either in public or in camera conducted for the purpose of casualty prevention which includes the gathering and analysis of information, the drawing of conclusions, including the identification of the circumstances and determination of causes and contributing factors, and, when appropriate, the making of safety recommendations'.
IMO res. A.849 (20) 4.6
1.2 The secret Commission appointed on 28 September 1994
The night of the 28 September 1994 the passenger ferry 'Estonia' allegedly sank at about 01.48-01.55 hrs according official but unproven information. As will be shown later the 'Estonia' probably sank already at 01.32 hrs. A Mayday was sent on VHF Channel 16 at 01.24-01.30 hrs - probably interrupted by the sinking.
Many ships in the vicinity did not understand that the 'Estonia' had sunk and never assisted 1.20. The Final Report (5) does not mention this. A proper Mayday was never sent. Only a few ships went to assist, but they could only pick up 30-40 persons in the water (about 100 were picked up by helicopters). The assisting ships could not launch any lifeboats or rescue boats 1.37. At least 852 persons died including more than 500 Swedes.
Already at 06.00 hrs the Estonian president Lennart Meri 4.5 informed his countrymen about the accident. Meri declared the day of national mourning and that all flags would fly from half pole, and said that:
"This difficult day we must in thought and deeds support those who have been hit by sorrow".
An Estonian-Swedish joint-venture company, Estline, was behind the ferry operations. The ferry itself was registered in Estonia and Cyprus, and it was Estonia, which was responsible to make a correct accident investigation.
The International Maritime Organisation
Estonia had become a member of the UN International Maritime Organisation, IMO, already in 1992 and Estonia had therefore adopted several resolutions about how to carry out an investigation and the procedures, e.g. it should be public and all results and conclusions should be informed to the IMO. Resolution A.637(16)13 is about Cooperation of maritime accident investigation. The resolution has recommendations in connection with accident investigations according to the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (art. 94(7), art. 217(5) and art. 223)). An accident investigation (e.g. the 'Estonia'), regardless if it is done by the flag state (Estonia) or by an administration of another state shall be carried out so that:
2.(a)(i) ... the public shall be permitted to attend.
According IMO res. 637(16) point 2.(a)(i) it is clear that the Swedish public had the right to attend the investigation. But Sweden, Estonia and Finland did not permit relatives, survivors, cargo owners or any interested party (underwriters, other shipping companies, trade unions) to attend the investigation 1994-1998. Everything was kept secret. You wonder why? The answer is that a false cause of accident was immediately announced and it would have been discovered, if the investigation were public. And who ordered the secrecy? The answer must be that it was done by persons with a particular interest that the true cause should never be known.
Estonia thus ignored completely all the IMO resolutions 1994 (and also the SOLAS rules). Instead the same day the prime ministers of Estonia, Finland and Sweden decided that a joint and international (but private? 1.5) Commission should be formed to investigate the accident and that its chairman should be an Estonian. That was all! The cover-up started the same day the accident took place 4.4 and misleading information was immediately fed to the media.
The same day the Estonian Foreign Office informed that the Estonian Commission talked to a Norwegian diving company to assist in the investigation,14 i.e. an Estonian Commission was already formed on 28 September! But the Estonian Commission quickly stopped talking to the company - Stolt Comex - to assist with the investigation. The words of president Lennart Meri at 06.00 hrs that
"This difficult day we must in thought and deed support those who have been hit by sorrow".
had quickly lost its content only 12 hours later. The cover-up had already started. Secrecy during an accident investigation is not permitted.
13 Res. A.637(16) was replaced in November 1997 by Res. A.849 (20) which in principle says exactly the same thing in a Code of marine accident investigations. Sweden, Finland and Estonia have adopted but ignored both resolutions.
14 Press Release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Estonia Immediate Release 28 September, 1994 21:15 PM The Crisis Commission established by the government held a press conference at 7:00 pm to review their work during the day. The Commission was chaired by Minister of Transportation ... Andi Meister 1.5). ... The Commission said that the reasons for the tragedy are not clear and are under investigation. To this end the Commission has opened negotiations with a Norwegian diving company to assist in the investigation. The Commission Chairman said that the cause of the accident can only be determined with a review of the ferry, which lies 80 metres beneath the surface. ... The Commission called for anyone knowing who was travelling on the 'Estonia' on a ticket under another name, could they please inform their local police station ...