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Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.

1.18 The falsified Strength Analysis of the Visor Locks. Water in the Engine Room censored

It is remarkable that paragraph 3 of the Press release of 15 December 1994 states that the strength of the locking devices associated with the bow visor in combination with wave loads on the visor during the severe weather and the course of the ship at the time is the main cause of the accident.

There was no evidence for this statement on 15 December 1994, particularly in view of the writer's present assumption that the visor was still attached to the ship, when it sank, and that it was removed under water.

It was not until 19 December 1994 that the Commission, Stenström, ordered from the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm, a very limited strength analysis of the visor locks (14). The locks of the ramp were never analysed, as they were inaccessible. The procedure confirms that Stenström and the Commission manipulated the media with a misleading press release in December 1994.

The request of the Commission (Stenström) to the KTH also shows how the dive examination was limited. The Royal Institute was asked only to examine the visor plates, to which the lugs of the side locks had been welded. Then they say that 'The lugs remain down on the wreck and cannot be examined further'. In previous correspondence (15) from the Finnish research laboratory VTT53 dated 29 November 1994, i.e. four days before the dive examinations, the VTT proposed, and the proposal was underlined and highlighted with bold letters in the letter

"For a complete examination and model tests, the lugs of the side locks and the broken parts of the Atlantic lock must be salvaged from the wreck".

In spite of this request not being granted, the VTT made several studies 1995-1997 to prove what the Commission had stated already in December 1994. VTT became a co-conspirator of the falsification of history.

The ramp locking devices were never analysed at all!

To do a proper strength analysis of the visor locks it is necessary to describe the environment where the locks were used and the loads the locks are subject to. The weather was not severe at the accident (wind Southwest, force 7 Beaufort, 4,3 meters waves) and the buoyancy loads on the visor was small as the visor was only submerged three, four meters. It seems that initially only a very simple hydrodynamic load estimation was made of the total load on the visor in irregular waves with no regard to the distribution and transmission of the load to the hull via various locks and other contact points and in what order collapse would occur Part 3.

In this case the Commission assumed that one external, irregular load in excess of the design load acted on the visor in the aft and upward direction. The Commission never examined the possibility of extra loads due to water inside the visor as suggested by the German group of experts, which could have acted in a forward direction. The Commission did not consider that the visor could have been ripped off by a transient impact force sideways, when the ship (and visor) was heeling, as suggested early by this writer, or that an explosion may have occurred between visor and ramp, which was proposed much later 3.18. There were at least four different possibilities how the visor was lost but only one was analysed. That the visor was subject to fatigue, which might have reduced the strength, was not considered.

When the strength analysis is completed you have to judge the results against the requirements. If the strength does not fulfil the requirements, defects may develop.

There are two types of defects in this case - fractures and damages due to too high tensile forces, e.g. plastic deformation and ruptures.

Fractures may develop due to fatigue or lower excessive loads. Damages (deformations, collapse, buckling and ruptures) may occur, when the load is really excessive. Plastic deformation of lock parts would cuase that the lock didn't fit. In this case the Commission stated that the external load on the visor had been excessive resulting in an excessive load in the various lock parts and the hinges resulting in the parts being torn apart (even if we were not told in what order the various parts had been damaged).

Evidently the weakest part of any lock should have been damaged first, e.g. the visor lug of the bottom lock or the bolt 3.7. Now the strongest part had been damaged - the three lugs and two bushings welded to the forepeak deck. Why? A reply has never been given.

Results announced before the Analysis was done

Regardless - the strength analysis announced in the Press release of 15 December 1994 had not been carried out because the Commission (Stenström!) stated the result even before the study was ordered from the KTH or the VTT. Later the Commission ordered additional studies and model tests, etc. but it seems it was always a silent agreement that the results must be what the Commission (Stenström) already had concluded in the autumn 1994. As this was not possible, the reports were written in a very artificial and complicated language, so that the Commission could interpret the result any way they liked. Not one writer of any strength report handed in to the Commission is today prepared to explain, what the report actually says! Anyway - most of the strength reports about the visor locks are of little interest, as it was not the visor that caused the alleged inflow of water. The interesting part was of course the ramp and how it would have opened. But it was conveniently forgotten by the Commission (Stenström). Not one strength analysis of the ramp locks and structure was ever done. It was only stated that the ramp had been ripped open. No evidence was ever presented!

You must evidently prove the proximate cause of an accident before you publish it.

Five different Descriptions of the Accident. Water in the Engine Room

The Commission thus had great difficulties at the end of 1994 to explain what actually happened to the 'Estonia'. This can be further exemplified by what five different Swedish 'yearbooks' 1994 wrote about the 'Estonia'. The writer assumes that the editors contacted various members of the Commission or other 'experts' to get an up-to-date description about the findings. The results are five different descriptions:

(1) Året i Focus 1994 - The Year in Focus 1994, Norstedts Förlag, Stockholm, ISBN 91-1-943462-6

"... Soon after midnight a number of sudden impacts are felt on the 'Estonia' ... a seaman is sent down to the car deck to check the lashings of the trailers and the bow ramp, which was also monitored by internal TV ... There was water on the car deck - water that started to penetrate into the engine room aft. The engine staff reports its observations to the bridge and leave its work place below the waterline.

... It was clear from the beginning that the movable part of the bow, the so called bow visor, had been struck off and caused flooding of the car deck and that therefore the stability of the ferry was totally lost ... In connection with the bow visor being forced out of its foundations and falling down ... the ramp was pulled down to a fully open position."

Here we note that, apart from water on the car deck in the superstructure, water started to penetrate into the engine room aft - and that it was reported by the engine staff 1.48.

In the Final report (5) the engine staff doesn't mention anything about water in the engine room - three engine crewmembers were instead trying to save the ship for at least seven minutes.

(2) Kamera 94 - Camera 94, Bengt Forsberg Förlag, Malmö 1994, ISBN 91-7046-183X 

"Just before half past twelve (midnight) a crewmember went down to the car deck. "I got the shock of my life" he stated later. "The water reached to my knees." ... (the ramp) had been ripped open by the heavy waves. The amount of water ... made (the ferry) dangerously instable. Just after half past one the vessel capsized completely and then it took only five minutes before she sank."

Here we can note that a crewmember was standing in water to his knees on the car deck.

The Final report (5) naturally doesn't mention it. Note further that the ship sank at about 01.35 hrs. The Commission later changed the time to after 01.50 hrs.

(3) Årets Största Händelser i Bilder 1994 - The Most important Events in Pictures 1994, Erich Gysling, ISBN 3-906557-04-9 

"During a storm and in heavy seas water started to flow into the bow door and flowed down to a compartment below the car deck. The 'Estonia' listed ... within a few minutes the ship sank to the bottom ... about 140 survived.

An expert commission, which in September 1994 had examined the 'Estonia' in Sweden, had concluded that the bow visor could cause problems, if the ship was experiencing very extreme weather conditions. This was exactly what happened ... on the 28 September. The bow door was ripped away in the storm and water started to flow in."

Here is suggested that the accident scenario was known before (sic) the accident took place: an expert commission had studied the 'Estonia' before the disaster. It is also suggested that water flowed down below the car deck, which never occurred according to the Commission and its Final report (5). And 140 survived. And the ship sank soon after the listing occurred.

(4) När Var Hur 1995 - When Where How 1995, Forum, ISBN 91-37-10550-7

"The waves penetrate a leaking door at the bow. The water is soon knee high on the car deck and flows also down into the engine room. The 'Estonia' cannot be manoeuvred. The ship ends up with the side against the waves and starts to heel. The 'Estonia' capsizes and sinks. The whole sequence of events takes six minutes from the first Mayday. Survivors stated that the ship turned over and sank in only a few minutes."

Here we are again told that the water was knee high on the car deck in the superstructure. And then it took only six minutes after the Mayday (sent 01.22-01.30 hrs) when the 'Estonia' turned over and sank at say 01.35 hrs.

It seems to have been written by Dr Huss 1.9 who then insisted that it took six minutes for the ship to capsize - but not to sink.

(5) Anno 94, Corona AB, ISBN 91-564-1994-5

"The 'Estonia' starts to heel and sinks in severe weather ... (assisting ships/helicopters) can only save 140 persons ... The cause for the fast accident sequence of events appears to be the bow door of the ship having been ripped off in the severe sea state. When the car deck and the engine room fill with water the ship loses its ability to manoeuvre."

Here is again suggested that the engine room fills with water ... and that 140 persons are rescued.

In four out of five descriptions above of the accident the engine room (or a compartment below the car deck) is flooded early. It is also mentioned in 2.23. This event, indicating leakage of the hull as cause of accident, disappears totally in the Final report (5). The engine room naturally cannot be flooded via the car deck. The engine crew 1.48 states later in (5) that the engine room was dry. The engine staff is evidently lying.

In two descriptions we are told that the water was knee high on the car deck. We now know what would have happened then - immediate capsize and floating upside down. So where was the water knee high? In the engine room?  3/M Treu had announced just that on television on the afternoon of the accident (picture right). He says 'In the engine room there was water to the knees'.

And two yearbooks suggest that 140 survived. The Commission considers it was only 137.  

In conclusion, in December 1994 the Commission announced that the (defective) strength of the locks caused the whole accident, while various year books are mostly talking about water in the engine room. How could this misunderstanding have developed? The Swedish government however was satisfied - it believed the Commission and the defective locks. The water in the engine room had to be forgotten.


53 VTT is the national Finnish research laboratory.

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