The M/S Estonia Accident Investigation

The biggest Fraud in Maritime History
Six Phases of Sinking

by Anders Björkman


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Six Phases of Sinking

1. The M/S Estonia was apparently underway when an incident occurred. It had nothing to do with the forward ramp on the no. 2 car deck (behind the bow visor) that was always leaking a little, so water flowed in in severe weather (Source - the German Group of Experts) in spite of efforts to make it tight by various means. The watchman was checking the ramp at hourly intervals. To enable the leaking water to flow out, the crew always operated the ship with a small, starboard list and stern trim. Therefore the small amount of water that leaked in at the bow ramp flowed aft along the starboard side of the car deck due to the stern trim and flowed out through the scuppers. This was 'normal' practice. The pilots often stepped into water when they embarked on the ship at arrival Sweden, we are told to believe. The watchman was at the ramp prior the incident. He did not observe any explosions at the ramp/visor, etc., so the suggestions that bombs exploded at the ramp/visor cannot be correct. But explosives were apparently used later by the Swedish Navy divers to remove the visor from the ship under water.

Leakage develops 00.45-00.50 hrs

2. At 00.45-00.50 hrs the writer thinks the ship suffered hull damage and leakage below waterline - maybe in way of the starboard stabilizer fin box room or the starboard sewage tank compartment and the room was flooded. Many survivors noticed sharp noises as if the ship collided or something was broken or maybe an explosion occurred. The water inflow might have been as little as 50-100 tons/minute, i.e. the ship started to sink! The effective open area of the damage was about 0.2 m². Apparently the watertight doors to the two forward or aft spaces were open - a corridor space - so that three compartments were flooded.

Alternatively (less likely) the starboard shell plating fractured in the bilge strake at the swimming pool area. It was a rust trap. Water always spilled out from the swimming pool in the pool compartment and ended up in the bilges, where the lower frame brackets became rusty (even if the pool is located on the port side).

The crew knew that something was wrong from the start of the accident, i.e. 00.50-00.55 hrs and 3/E Treu probably was out of the engine control room to check.

They reported to the bridge that the ship was leaking - that several compartments on deck 0 were flooded. It is assumed that the engine crew started the bilge pumps (one crew member, Sillaste, said so). In spite of this, water started to rise up on deck 1 at about 00.55-00.58 hrs (through the down flooding hatches in deck 1 and the stairwells down to deck 0), where it was noted by some passengers in the passenger compartments on deck 1 - there was water in the centre corridor. The passengers also noted that the watertight doors on deck 1 were open. The situation was then as seen in the plan right - grey colour indicates flooded spaces:

The sewage tanks room, the corridors and the stabilizer room are assumed flooded and the watertight doors to the swimming pool room forward and to the generator room aft are closed. Survivor CÖ was in his cabin above the sewage tanks room. The engine crew was in the engine room starting the bilge pumps.

The official investigators apparently modified the statements of the crew to blame the accident on the visor.

Water on Deck 1 - the sudden List develops at 01.02 hrs

3. When the passengers on deck 1 informed the bridge (via the information counter on deck 5), that there was water on deck 1, the crew - probably including the Master - on the bridge panicked. The watertight door control panel on the bridge was badly arranged 1.23 - some indication lights had been arranged to be green, when the doors were open and some were red when other doors were open, and, there was a facility to open, and to keep open, the watertight doors from the bridge (panel). It is thought that the Master tried to close all watertight doors but by mistake some doors (on starboard side) were instead opened at about 01.00 hrs - to the generator room aft and to the swimming pool room forward of the flooded compartments on deck 0 (tank top) causing two strong bangs.Thus the water - say about 600-1.000 tons - in the flooded three compartments spread to five compartments - 120-200 tons in each. Then the ship lost its initial stability due to too large free water surfaces causing negative GM 2.17 - the ship suddenly listed at 01.02 hrs and come to rest at about 01.05 hrs with a 15 degrees list. Alternatively it was the fracture in the shell plate that developed forward and aft so that the starboard heeling tank was suddenly flooded causing the sudden list.

The ship probably stopped at this time and the engine crew on deck no. 1 decided to evacuate to deck 8. Passengers were also evacuating. The ship was rolling strongly around the 15 degrees list position due to small GoM and, when the ship rolled to port, it was possible to walk across decks and climb up in stairs.

When the ship rolled to 40 degrees starboard you had to hold on to something. The situation looked like shown right with floodwater indicated in grey on the tank top.

Andrzej Jasionowski of Strathclyde university has kindly pointed out that the ship cannot list more than 21 degrees in this terrible five-compartments flooded condition and this might be so. The ship would still have been safe, albeit with a list, if the water could have been contained by closing the watertight doors and pumping the undamaged spaces dry. It tallies with survivors observation - the vessel stabilized with a 15-20 degrees list after the first deep rolls, sudden listing to starboard.

Stable Condition after the sudden List at 01.18 hrs

4. It is then thought that the watertight door in the center line on deck 0 between the generator and engine rooms was also open and that water spilled into the main engine room at say about 01.18 hrs - six compartments flooding! The ship listed more and had 30 degrees list - but it was still stable with say 800-1 200 tons of water on deck 0. The ship was now floating with help of the superstructure - the car deck between decks 2 and 4. Ramp and visor were in place. Only little water flowed in at the forward, leaking ramp. The visor must have been in place. The situation looked as shown right:

Only now - around 01.20 hrs - the Mayday message was sent.

The Ship sinks on the Stern 01.18-01.35 hrs

5. But more water flooded in through the leak and the list increased and deck 4 and above - the deckhouse - was flooded. The deckhouse was of course neither water- nor weather tight. What happened now was the following: as the ship listed the ventilator openings, say open area 0.5 m², on open deck no. 4 aft on top of the superstructure came under water and water flooded down through them onto the car deck no. 2 aft - say 200-300 ton/minute. Alternatively the aft car ramps on deck no. 2 aft were leaking. As a result the ship started to trim on the stern, listed more and started to sink quickly stern first. Evidently the ship had been sinking since the leak started, but now the situation was very serious. The water in the six compartments on deck 0 flowed to the stern. The situation at about 01.25 hrs may have been as seen right:

The tragedy is that the ship could have still been saved in this condition by closing the watertight doors in the hull and pump the intact compartments dry. But the writer thinks that the hydraulic pressure in the watertight door operating system was low due to stupid operations from the bridge and the doors were blocked in the open position. And evidently the engine crew had abandoned their positions so nobody could start pumps and open correct valves.

The final Sinking 01.32 hrs

6. Then the ship was doomed. The deckhouse and car deck were flooded more as seen on the figure right from the Final report.

A ship can evidently not float in that position, but this the Commission suggests - the ship should have sunk 22 minutes later!

In reality the ship probably sank hitting the bottom already at say 01.32 hrs with the stern first, while the bow - with the visor in place - was above the water a short while. Officially the ship sank after 01.50 hrs but this time was invented by the accident investigators to allow the sinking ship to drift >1 500 meters to the official wreck position.

As can be seen on the figures above there was a fair amount bouyancy left in the ship on decks 0 and 1 forward at this time but the air was forced out very quickly through the open watertight doors and the ventilation system. When the bow came under water - say at 01.36 hrs - the visor was dislodged on port side and hang on the bow superstructure starboard side. Of course the visor could also have been struck off earlier, when the ship was listing on the side without stern trim (as outlined in the writers earlier scenarios). But evidently no water to sink the ship entered through the bow - in the JAIC scenario this would have led to
immediate capsize and floating upside down after 2 minutes . The crew members in the ECR could never have remained for long after 01.02 hrs. They left immediately - through the engine casing - and all their official statements are lies 1.48.

In order to verify the above scenario an associate of the writer informally inspected in August 2000 a ferry belonging to the owners of the 'Estonia' between Tallinn and Stockholm. All watertight doors below the car deck were open at sea. The Swedish Maritime Administration was duly informed - and decided to do nothing (except that the Director General - Mr. Anders Lindström - shortly afterwards decided to leave his position for other duties). It is sad that all parties do not encourage simple seamanship. Then similar accidents as the 'Estonia' will occur again, and again.

It is quite simple to verify the above scencario. Many modern ferries have sophisticated stability computers that not only calculates intact stability but also damage stabiliy, e.g. the Finnish Napa Onboard range of computers. The latter can be programmed to calculate the stability with flooded compartments of the watertight hull and the weathertight superstructure (but not the deck house). Thus you only have to start with an original, intact condition and then add water to the compartments you assume damage or flooded. The Napa Onboard immediately calculates the relevant new equilibrium and the relevant new particulars, draught, trim, displacement, GoM, GZ and range, list, etc. It will inform when the margin line is submerged and when progressive flooding starts.The Napa Onboard computer can also be used to show what happens with water in the superstructure - at a certain angle of list the ship capsizes. Evidently the Napa Onboard computer assumes that the deck house does not contribute with bouyancy to float the ship - only to provide bouyancy to extend the range of positive heeling arm GZ (if the deck house is weathertight - which was not the case of the 'Estonia').

Why was the real cause of the 'Estonia' sinking covered up? Probably for multiple reasons:

to protect the newly 'democratic' and poor Estonian state, where Finland and Sweden control 60-70% of all new investments,

to hide that the 'Estonia' was used for transporting contraband of various sorts for the Estonian and Swedish governments, and

to protect the Swedish Maritime Administration and its incompetent staff and the Finnish Coast Guard that did nothing to assist the sinking ship and knew that the ferry was not seaworthy before the accident.

The states of Estonia, Finland and Sweden had many reasons to manipulate the investigation. And the real culprits were happy - they got away and could retire to sunny, southern Europe.

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