M/S Estonia - the German Experts' Report
The report of the German 'Expert Group' about the M/S Estonia accident investigation 1994-1997 was finalized in May 2000. The report can be studied at http://www.estoniaferrydisaster.net .
The report is a long document of 41 chapters. It disproves everything of the official investigation report and is thus an amazing document.
All official factual information of the accident by the Joint Accident Investigation Commission (JAIC) - the vessel, operations aboard, the circumstances of the voyage, summary of testimonies aboard, the rescue operation and observations after the accident - is shown to be false by the Germans!
Furthermore all published analysis and evaluation of the accident - overview of separate investigations, development of the accident, ownership and operating arrangements, strength evaluation of the visor and the ramp attachment, analysis of the evacuation, the rescue operation and compliance with collision bulkhead requirements - are shown to be incorrect.
The 'Expert Group' puts the blame for the situation on two persons - Olof Forssberg and Kari Lehtola, the past chairmen of the Swedish and Finnish delegations in the Joint Accident Investigation Commission, JAIC. These two persons with law university degrees have since been appointed to high and important public offices in their countries by their respective governments. That both persons lied to the media during the investigation is convincingly shown in the German report. Why they lied is not explained. They lied to cover up the true cause of incident - leakage of the hull below waterline due to an explosion aboard.
The exact cause of the accident is therefore not given by the Germans. That the ship was not seaworthy is nevertheless shown clearly - the visor was damaged prior the departure, the ramp was leaking, there was water on the car deck in severe weather, which was flushed out through the open aft ramp, etc.
But why the ship didn't capsize and float upside down is not explained. The Germans believe that ferries with intact hulls just sinks, when you put water in the superstructure. They have not studied basic damage stability and Archimedes principle.
Actually the Germans have never made any stability calculations of their own at all. It is quite strange. Why can't the Germans state that the ship sank due to hull leakage below waterline?
The German report contains many new scoops. It seems that the underwater hull was severely leaking before departure. The sauna space was flooded. The hull was leaking below waterline, i.e. damaged! The report shows how the dive survey 2-4 December 1994 under the control of Swedish director for maritime safety - Johan Franson - was manipulated: the sauna on deck no. 0 was apparently inspected by diver S. Jessop between 14.52-16.02 hrs, i.e. for 1 hour 6 minutes, to hide this fact the official dive log was falsified, another dive inspection with free swimming divers took place concurrently, the rails of the forward ramp was apparently cut off by the divers, brought up to the dive vessel and then dumped again into the water 250 metres South of the stern of the wreck, the starboard aft ramp was found open, etc. The starboard fin stabilizer was sloppily installed in February 1994. There was then a fire aboard i.w.o. the stabilizer installation and it is doubtful if the stabilizer box was actually correctly welded to the hull by the shipyard, etc. etc.
It is convincingly shown that all crew members lied about what happened aboard. According to the three survivors in the engine control room, they escaped 8-15 minutes after the first incident - the sudden isting - occurred by either climbing through the casing or taking the crew stair case to deck no. 8. Unfortunately the German report does not show that these escape routes are impossible, when the ship is listing >40° as was the case when they escaped. In both cases you had to open a closed watertight door and enter and cross the engine room and in the last case you had to go further aft to reach the stairs. Why the Germans cannot say that the engine crew observed the hull leakage below water line - there was water in the engine room! - and then escaped to deck #7 and their own cabins and alerted the complete engine crew that ... survived. The Germans know that the engine crew lie about having watched a leaking ramp for several minutes before the sudden listing took place.
It is also shown by the Germans that the visor was found adjacent to the wreck. According to the JAIC the visor fell off 1560 metres West of the wreck and was rammed by the bulbous bow in 14 knots speed resulting in a big indent in the visor. The JAIC states that blue underwater paint can be seen in the visor buckle. However, as you would have expected traces of red and brown anti-corrosive paint and probably pink and plum (not blue) anti-fouling paint in the buckle instead, if it had been hit by the bulbous bow, the Germans could easily have shown that the visor was never struck by the bulbous bow at all. Anyway, the Germans do not even query the strange visor position 1560 metres West of the wreck (and that the ship then turned 180° port to sink 1560 meters East of the visor.. Every official information about the accident seems to be manipulated by the JAIC. The manipulations started early, e.g. by the Finnish head, Mr. Kari Lehtola, giving the media on 30 September 1994 a false wreck position - the wreck was 'isolated' by Lehtola 2100 meter Northeast of the real wreck position, etc., etc.
The German report is a strong incentive to have the official investigation re-opened. This would benefit the international work for safety at sea.
The German Group of Experts has February 2007 up-dated its information at http://www.estoniaferrydisaster.net/start.html .
There is very interesting info of the damages caused by explosives to the forward bulkhead of the superstructure at http://www.estoniaferrydisaster.net/chapter02/2-3-4_01.html .
The Germans think that the damages are caused by explosives, when the M/S Estonia was still afloat on its way to Sweden. Heiwa Co thinks that the damages were caused when the visor, still attached to the superstructure by intact hinges on deck 4 and by ropes to deck 2, was blown and pulled off the wreck resting on its side under water after the sinking by Swedish Navy and Rescue Service divers. The visor then dropped to the sea floor below the bow (and maybe got a buckle in the process).
The Germans suggest:
(1) The visor side locking devices did not fail because they were too weak due to a "design mistake", but were blown apart by the force of the explosions. The Atlantic lock resisted even this force mainly due to the flexibility of the visor bottom structure and broke only later.
It seems we agree that the visor was attached to the superstructure when the vessel sank and therefore could not have dropped off 1.560 meters west of the wreck position.
It would therefore be logical to conclude that the visor was removed under water after the sinking 28 September 1994 using explosives.
It would also be logical to conclude that the ramp was never pulled fully open before the sinking and that no or little water entered the superstructure and that the complete JAIC story of water on the car deck is bull shit.
It is a pity that media does not follow up.
The Germans think that the visor was physically moved from one location, close to the wreck, to further away from the wreck - http://www.estoniaferrydisaster.net/chapter03/3-1-0.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 and not as a safety at sea consultant. 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!
In the normal fashion the German Group of Experts is still not interested in the stability of the vessel with water on the car deck above waterline and the simple fact that the ferry capsizes and floats upside down with 2000 tons of water 'loaded' on the car deck. The Germans carefully avoids to mention the 100% false 'sinking' report by Rosenius/Sjöling made 2003.
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