Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
1.25 Routines of Cargo Loading - Dangerous Goods - censored
According to the Final Report (5) the lightship centre of gravity of the 'Estonia' was located to the starboard side, so that it was either necessary to load more cargo on the port side or to fill the port heeling tank for no listing 2.17 in service. However, according to the Final report the 'Estonia' was loaded incorrectly at departure - more cargo was put on the starboard side, so that it was necessary to fill the port heeling tank 100% with 183 tons of water, but still the ship was not upright, when it left Tallinn.
This is, to say the least, a strange description how the ship was listing at the last voyage. There is no information how the ship was loaded at previous voyages. And as shown in 2.17 the lightship centre of gravity was in fact located to port (!), so you needed 100 tons of water in the starboard heeling tank for an upright condition in harbour. If the port heeling tank was full, it must have been 283 tons more weight on the extreme starboard side!?
If the 'Estonia' were incorrectly loaded at Tallinn, she should have listed to starboard in port, already before the port heeling tank was filled up. The Final report does not describe the heeling system, but it is certain that the heeling tank was not automatically filled up. The German group of experts have suggested that the 'Estonia' was leaking already at Tallinn, i.e. that one or two double bottom tanks on starboard side were filled with water (due to a hull leak and could not be pumped dry!) and that the port heeling tank was filled to compensate for that!
You get the impression that the crew loaded the ship totally arbitrarily.
The Final report does not describe in any detail what exactly was loaded on the last voyage. It is possible that dangerous goods were carried, which leaked out on the car deck and flowed to a collection tank, which later exploded. The possibility has not been investigated.
According a document in the Swedish SHK archive, act A61, the cargo consisted of 39 off trucks with a total weight of 970 tons, none of it dangerous, plywood, frozen fish, miscellaneous cargo, etc. The average weight was thus 25 tons - the heaviest truck weighted 55 tons and the lightest 6 tons. It should not have been too difficult to load 39 trucks, so that the ship floated without a list. The conclusion of the Final report, that four or five of the most heavy trucks - 200-250 tons - were incorrectly loaded on the starboard side, so that it was necessary to later fill the port heeling tank 100%, does not ring true. The German suggestion that the ship was leaking already in port has not been checked by the Commission. And the Final report does not investigate, if dangerous goods were carried and if the crew knew how to handle dangerous goods. Actually, every essential piece of information in the Final report (5) is false or misleading.
The 'Estonia' was regularly used by the Swedish Military Defence forces to transport military equipment, apparently of ex-USSR origin, from Tallinn to Stockholm. This simple fact is not mentioned or investigated in the Final report (5). According to an agreement between the Swedish customs authority (Tullverket) and the Swedish defence authorities (Försvarsmakten) 1993 or 1994 the Swedish customs agreed to allow military goods to pass without normal clearance. Staff of the Swedish defence authorities informed when transports arrived. They were also attending in person on arrival, according to the head of information at the Tullverket, Mr Sven Peter Olsson. A customs clerk has informed that the 'Estonia' carried such military equipment twice in September 1994 and it has been confirmed by a Swedish military spokes person on Swedish TV autumn 2004. Thus it was 'normal' practice that 'strange' goods were carried by the 'Estonia' and were accepted/passed by the Swedish Customs. The Swedish defence authorities have in January 2005 in a report to the Swedish government again confirmed this. The Swedish (Svea) appeal court chief judge/president J. Hirschfeldt told, after a short investigation, the government that the defence authorities (not clear who?) had confirmed
a) two consignments of military (non-explosive) goods were imported on the 'Estonia' in September 1994 and
b) an agreement with Swedish customs not to stop them was in force.
The Hirschfeldt information to the government January 2005 has been challenged by Swedish journalist Sven Anér. Already 22 December 1994 the Swedish defence Headquarters (legal counsel Stefan Ryding-Berg) told Anér that it (the defence authorities) had no documentation of any kind about imports/transports of military goods by them on the 'Estonia' at any time 1994. On 15 April 2005 the Swedish defence Headquarters (legal counsel Stefan Ryding-Berg again) told Anér the same thing and added that there existed no agreement with the Customs, etc.
The present situation is thus that the Swedish defence authorities tells the government via its chief appeal judge/president Hirschfeldt one thing - that military goods were imported/a customs agreement existed, and, on the other hand, to Anér, that no such evidence exists at defence Headquarters. Confusing, to say the least. But according to the Swedish secrecy laws the defence Headquarters can say what it will to Anér. Secret documents simply do not exist.
The details about the cargo are thus still unknown; the type and origin of the cargos, weight, volume, value, what it was declared to be and its ownership, how it was carried (in trucks or lorries?), etc. Apparently it was ex-USSR equipment (probably from the Ukraine) that the Swedes wanted to study (or wanted to pass on to other customers). How the cargo could pass the Estonian customs and be loaded aboard is unclear. Probably the Estonian customs was corrupt and didn't care what was loaded as long as they were paid. It could thus be anything - nuclear, chemical, biological, medical, narcotics, etc. One proposal is that it was anti-aircraft equipment (radars/robots) from Ukraine to be re-sold to Iraq and that it was a 'private ' Swedish/Iraqi deal by certain Swedish military officers (the equipment was supposed to be transported by air to Egypt from Sweden and then on by boat to Jordan and by truck to Iraq).
Another question is whether the shipping company, Estline, was informed of these unusual practices, i.e. that its vessel was used to transport military equipment of unknown nature? No doubt the 'Estonia' senior officers aboard were informed and it should be the reason why 12 surviving Estonian crew members disappeared after the accident 1.46 and 1.41. They were prevented to testify about the stupid business.
The Swedish customs/defence authority cooperation agreement is still (2005) according to Hirschfeldt in force and secret. Actually everything is secret according to Swedish secrecy law 1980:100, chapter 2 -1,2 §§. No honest person has any possibility to find out what really happened by asking the Swedish authorities.
The confirmation that the 'Estonia' carried secret cargoes of contraband type should be further investigated. Latest information (May 2005) is that the military contraband was carried a the Latvian heavy truck bound from the Ukraine (not confirmed) with registrations number AG 565 with driver Gunars Gobins, born 1964. The truck was passed and recorded by the Estonian customs (according to Hirschfeldt) and thus loaded on the 'Estonia' 27 September 1994 but the ship owners never registered the truck in the loading bill and never informed the Swedish customs (or the accident Commission) that the truck was aboard. It should be fairly easy to find out the background of Gunars Gobins and his truck.
According to Mr. Stephen Davis in an article 'Death in the Baltic: the MI6 connection' in New Statesman Monday 23rd May 2005 it is suggested that British intelligence was involved in the smuggling.
As shown in other chapters of this book, Swedish Navy divers visited the wreck the week after the accident. They apparently tried to enter the car deck to remove cargo. At the same time they removed the visor using explosives. The visor then fell to the sea floor below the bow. Then the Commission was apparently ordered to blame the accident on the visor and its defective Germans locks manufactured 15 years earlier. It is the origin of the book you read - Disaster Investigation.
Dangerous goods may have contributed to the accident.